Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (4 May) . . Page.. 1247..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
I made the point yesterday that, in each of the previous four budgets, health expenditure has grown, on average, by just over 10 per cent a year. That additional growth of 40 per cent has taken the ACT health budget from $460 million to somewhere in the order of $700 million. That increase of over $220 million in annual expenditure on health is a reflection of this government's determination to fill a range of gaps exposed in relation to health services.
The continuing and emerging level of expenditure, reflected in the health status of the community as a whole, and in particular, the ageing community, is a level that cannot be sustained indefinitely, in the medium term or, indeed, in the short term. In the light of the uncertain nature of some of the traditional sources of revenue upon which we have relied significantly, we as a community face difficult issues. We must grapple with increasing demand, expectation and costs.
We all know—and every government has acknowledged this since self-government—efficiencies must be sought in the provision of education within the territory. This has been an area of significant debate and interest within the Assembly, as indeed it has been in the community, and quite rightly so. It is an area of significant sensitivity. But, as every single member of this place knows absolutely, it is an area that has been neglected. Previous governments of both persuasions, for a range of reasons, have not grasped the issues. We must now, with real maturity and real intent, take the decisions and make the adjustments that need to be made within the delivery of public education. That is the purpose of the functional review. It is not only about the short term; it is about the future and the health of the territory.
MR SPEAKER: The minister's time has expired.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (5.02): Today, we are debating, as a matter of public importance, the functional and strategic review of government structures and programs, also known as the functional review of the ACT budget, and its effect on the ACT government, business and community.
As Mrs Burke mentioned, the correct name for the Costello review is the functional review of the ACT budget. Mr Costello was asked to examine a range of issues related to the ACT budget, and specifically to financial matters. Indeed, three of the five terms of reference required Mr Costello to examine the level of expenditure on programs and options for reducing spending. We can understand why if we look at the Auditor-General's 2004-05 Financial audits: report No 7/2005. On page 31, the Auditor-General states:
Significant cash surpluses are not expected to be generated in the near future as the Territory's net cash inflows after meeting operating and capital activities are expected to remain negative for the next few years, before returning to positive levels in 2007-08 and 2008-09. The forecast return to positive net cash flows, however, will depend on the Government's ability to achieve a steady growth in net cash inflows from operating receipts and a substantial reduction in expenditure on capital activities.
Perhaps the most critical issue underlying this matter of public importance, however, is that the ACT community is being denied access to an important analysis of the