Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 6 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 2403..
MR SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Hanson.
MR DOSZPOT: My question is to the Treasurer. In delivering your budget in 2010 you said that the budget was "about meeting the community's needs". In October, the government tried to drive efficiency cuts in the Department of Education and Training. The cuts would have resulted in the loss of two early intervention preschool support teachers, two support teachers in early childhood English as a second language program, one early childhood support teacher for behavioural management, four school counsellor positions, two hearing support positions, losses in vision support teachers and a range of other unreasonable and unfair measures. As Treasurer, did you believe this efficiency dividend met the community's needs?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Doszpot for the question. It is interesting to see that the Liberals who criticised the budget recovery strategy in that we are not returning to surplus fast enough then also criticise attempts that are made to bring the budget back into surplus within a reasonable time frame.
Mr Doszpot: But why hit the disability community?
MR SPEAKER: Mr Doszpot, you have asked your question.
MS GALLAGHER: I would point that out as a preface to the rest of my answer. You cannot have it both ways. Either Mr Smyth or you have to change your position. If you want to spend more and not have efficiencies in government you cannot have the budget returning to surplus sooner than we have outlined in our budget papers?
The government has, in the last two budgets, implemented efficiency dividends as part of the budget recovery strategy. We believe that is reasonable. Agencies have been asked to go and implement those savings, with very clear instruction from the cabinet that, as much as possible, front-line services were to be exempt from the efficiency dividend.
Education undertook a process which outlined some efficiency savings which were not welcomed by the community. I think you can see the answer from this government in this year's budget, where we have provided additional funding to education to meet some of the budget pressures they were experiencing and where we exempted them for the efficiency dividend that they were not able to realise.
Yes, I think it is responding to the community's needs, very much so, in the sense that we have reviewed a decision taken. We have provided additional appropriation to meet the needs of the community in that instance. But I will not walk away from the fact that, as Treasurer, I need to run a very disciplined budget which will require savings. And those savings, particularly this year as we seek to ramp up those savings, are difficult to achieve. Every agency would like to not achieve them.
So we will maintain a fine balance between budget discipline and managing some of those additional cost pressures that have been faced, particularly by agencies like