Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1573..
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra—Leader of the Opposition) (3.00): Mr Speaker, this is a "cross your fingers"budget by a flat-footed government with no real economic competence and less vision. It is a budget that really offers no hope to the people of Canberra, slugged as they were, especially last year, with nine increased taxes, two of which were actually new taxes which affected every household in Canberra and every business in Canberra. And there is no gain for all the pain. Sure, there is a slim surplus in real terms, and we will come to that a bit more, of $13.5 million when you take out the expected gains on superannuation investments, or $103 million when you do not. But against this the Stanhope government's revenue has increased to a record $3.033 billion. It has increased to $3,033 million, up seven per cent from last year.
Continued pain through high taxes has been built into the system due to the linking of increased taxes to the wage price index. Tax increases above the consumer price index are now on automatic pilot. What it means is that the government can slyly rake in the increased takings without having to change the settings. In other words, the damage from last year has been locked in. The government claim to be taking the territory forward, but they just do not really say where. In fact, it actually sounds like their slogan for the next election. To give them their due, it is a government that is pretty good on slogans. That is one thing they are definitely good at.
This is not a government that knows how to take responsibility, whether it was for the 2003 fires that entered Canberra without any warning from the government until just before the flames burst into Duffy; whether it is the failure to build a new dam or in any way secure the territory's water supplies for the future in a timely fashion; or, indeed, whether to deal with traffic congestion and parking problems. All of these things are never their fault; it is always somebody else's.
The Chief Minister has told us again and again after every disaster that he has taken the best advice, and that goes to the heart of the difference between a government that leads and one that is led. To quote a famous British prime minister—their first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher—"an adviser advises and a politician decides".
Dodgy economics is something that this government does quite well. This year's budget is straight out of the snake oil salesman's bag of tricks. It seems we now have a miracle cure. It is a budget in surplus, after the incredible dire forecasts of last year—after these dire forecasts where the government said that it would just have to take all these draconian actions it has taken, like closing 23 schools and increasing taxes so that every Canberra household last year paid on average at least $400 extra and some businesses had to face hikes of up to 60 per cent.
The Chief Minister and Treasurer claims that the surplus is $103 million. This ignores the fact that gains on superannuation investments cannot be counted as income because they are not available for spending by the government. I note that he seems to be making some retraction on that today, but when you look at the budget papers and when you look at the speech yesterday, and then you look at how it has been reported, I do not think that is good enough. More needs to be done there.