Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 9 Hansard (19 September) . . Page.. 2895..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
a very, very significant problem in the years to come. That is something that whoever forms the government in 2008 is going to have to really come to grips with.
Mr Mulcahy: That will be our problem, Bill.
MR STEFANIAK: That issue will be our problem indeed. That is something that we just have to do. That is what we are here for. But it was rather annoying, having been in this place for a long time, coming into government in 1995, when there was a significant deficit of $344.8 million—
Mr Stanhope: Bulldust, Bill.
MR STEFANIAK: You can argue the toss on that one, but the significant fact was that it took a lot of effort for four or five years to get us out of that particular mess.
When you look at these rates and charges, maybe there is another way you should have done this. What you have been doing with these rates and charges is taking money out of an ever-diminishing pool—that is, the pockets of ordinary Canberra citizens—rather than perhaps even spending a little bit of money, the $3.5 million in not getting rid of the tourist commission for example, and getting money in from outside. Maybe you should not have made some of the changes you made in the business area, where you cut about 30 staff, and not made cuts in programs which had the potential to grow business here, get money and generate extra income, rather than taking it out of a flat pool of people in the ACT, which is basically what your rates and charges are doing.
You have gone about it not in a very competent way. You cannot really blame the commonwealth, as I said earlier. There is record GST money coming into the territory, undreamed of in the latter days of the Carnell and Humphries governments. We would have loved to have had about $150 million or $200 million a year coming in from the GST. Think what a good, competent government, like we were, could have done with that. You have not had that problem. You have had record and rising GST revenues.
You expect this year to receive commonwealth grants of $1.2 billion, over $65 million more than in 2005-06. That includes compensation for the deficiencies such as payroll tax receipts, which you mentioned. All in all, through your own ineptitude you have created in this budget a huge burden and impact on ordinary Canberrans.
MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.39): The Chief Minister has responded comprehensively to the MPI. However, I wish to emphasise a number of key points.
The ACT's economy is strong. Our unemployment rate is the lowest of all jurisdictions. Our participation rate is the highest of all states. The territory also has one of the strongest balance sheets of all jurisdictions. At lunchtime today I was able to go to the Floriade exhibition. There was an artist painting a view back from the gardens towards City Hill. In his painting, as well as the flowers, he had cranes in the skyline of Canberra showing the amount of growth in the city. There were six cranes in one painting by this artist from Floriade. That is quite a significant statement by a visiting artist.
What are the opposition's policies on taxes and levies? What are their fiscal policies? We have heard about the Liberal love fest in Sydney just the other weekend. We heard quite