Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 8 Hansard (10 August) . .
The second fallacy in the opposition leader's motion is that there is some river of gold from cancelling the light rail contact. Mr Hanson loves to throw out a big number and pretend that he has some sort of personal election war chest. He does not, Madam Speaker. He does not. He cannot continue to spend the same money over and over again on expensive projects that he cannot afford to deliver. That is a fact. You cannot spend the money you would save from not going ahead with light rail, as small as that would be once you take out the contract cancellation costs, and you cannot bring forward 20 years of expenditure into a four-year fiscal period. That is a very important point to note.
The impact in the forward estimates of cancelling the contract is a $400 million black hole. That is the position that those opposite have to confront. You cannot draw 20 years of expenditure forward into four years and think that that will not have an impact on the territory budget in the forward estimates period. The contract over 20 years represents less than one per cent of the ACT budget because we are spreading the costs over a generation.
As Minister Fitzharris has pointed out, for every dollar that we spend on the transport element there in light rail we will spend $33 on health and $24 on education. That gives a sense of the relativities in the territory budget. Of course, health and education combined represent more than half of the territory budget. They will always be the majority of outlays for the ACT government.
We are hearing a lot from those opposite. Promises are being made left, right and centre—actually, mostly promises being made right, hard right and even further right, I should say. The Liberals lose track of the fact that they have already made many, many commitments. Again, one need only go back and look through the last four years of Hansard and the public commitments already made by the Leader of the Opposition to understand just how big a fiscal hole they have dug for themselves by the commitments that they have already made. Today we add another $400 million on top of that.
Let me repeat: if you cancel the light rail contract, you bring forward a big compensation cost into the next few fiscal years. You cannot bring forward 20 years of expenditure into a four-year period but you certainly can bring forward the costs. That is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition is going to do.
Their plan to rip up the contract and to implement other uncosted promises already announced, already committed, is a $400 million black hole, confirmed yesterday by Professor Lewis from the University of Canberra. Ripping up the light rail contract simply means less money for schools and hospitals now. It does not mean more money. It means less, Madam Speaker. And there has still been no explanation from the Leader of the Opposition on how he will fill the $400 million black hole. How will he do it? He cannot argue lower taxes, more spending and an improved budgetary position. That does not work. When was the last time the Liberal Party tried that ahead of an election? It was 2013—Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey—and look at the fiasco that that was. Both lost their jobs inside the first term of that government because they made promises that they could not possibly achieve.
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