Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 2 August 2022) . . Page.. 2185 ..
provide those opportunities. I presume that a firm will be contracted this year to provide the estimates committee with technical and intellectual support to help them to analyse the budget. I think that is very appropriate.
From the transparency side, we believe that there are significant mechanisms already in place. We do not believe that an external auditor should come in and tell us what our policy priorities should be. That is something that the government works through, and the opposition is here to put the alternative views in debate. The Canberra Times will debate that, as will the various media outlets. I think that process will also deal with this question of what should be prioritised. We will not be supporting this motion today.
(Kurrajong—Leader of the Opposition) (4.02), in reply: It is extraordinary that the Treasurer has described my “fetish” with debt and deficit. I implore him to recall when we were going through the COVID pandemic whether I raised any concern about the measures that we were putting in place. He had my full support to ensure that our community was looked after during the time when they needed it the most.
To say that I have a “fetish” with debt and deficit is extraordinary and just downright weird. This comes from a Treasurer who, when he entered this place, spoke about the importance of good government being economically responsible. It was important enough for Mr Barr, when he entered this place, when he was given the privilege of being elected to this place, to put it in his inaugural speech.
He spent the entire debate deflecting from the substance of my motion because, of course, he cannot refute what is in black and white. He cannot refute the numbers that are outlined in his own budget, in his own forecasts and in the stunning failures in delivery that are all laid bare.
The leader of the Greens must be clutching at straws when the main thrust of his argument was to talk at length about what happened last term and into the last election. I also do not know where he is going with this. On the one hand he talks about a magical number, a magical deficit and “We won’t be talking about an arbitrary number,” and in the next breath he says, “Of course, that doesn’t mean that we put everything on the credit card,” and, “It’s not about careless spending.” So what is it? You cannot have your cake and eat it too, Mr Rattenbury.
Let us talk about Mr Barr’s statement that, “Yes, we have been through some shocks,” and he outlined several. He said, “But we’ve recovered. We’ve recovered.” Let us talk about the “recovery”. This is the Treasurer’s eleventh budget and it is his eleventh budget deficit, as per the uniform presentation framework. The result of these deficits is more and more debt. The Treasurer has taken the territory’s net debt position of negative $736 million to $109 million in 2012-13, $910 million in 2014-15, $1.65 billion in 2015-16, and $2.22 billion in 2018-19. This was all well before COVID. That is because, before the pandemic, the Treasurer had delivered seven budget deficits, pushing our net debt to $2.22 billion!
When the pandemic did hit, we were already on the backfoot—so much so that, after the election in 2020, ACT treasury, his own directorate, in the incoming brief said that