Page 2991 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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Appropriation Bill 2022-2023

[Cognate bill:

Appropriation (Office of the Legislative Assembly) Bill 2022-2023]

Cognate papers:

Estimates 2022-2023—Select Committee report

Estimates 2022-2023—Select Committee report—government response]

Detail stage

Schedule 1—Appropriations—Proposed expenditure.

Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate—Part 1.5.

Debate resumed.

MS LEE (Kurrajong—Leader of the Opposition) (5.28): Well, here we are—another budget from the Chief Minister and Treasurer and his Labor-Greens government, and another budget deficit.

If the worst happens and the Chief Minister is still in charge in 2025-26, and still running the territory’s finances in the same way he has for the last decade, the ACT will have had its 14th consecutive budget deficit. Each year over the forward estimates, the territory’s debt is forecast to grow, to the point where the ACT will be $15 billion in debt by 2025-26!

By that stage, we will be repaying more than half a billion dollars a year in interest repayments alone. That is $1,000 for every Canberran, each and every year, just to fund interest repayments because of the incompetence of the Treasurer and the Labor-Greens government. Our interest repayments alone will cost every single Canberran $1,000 each year by 2025-26.

The Treasurer conveniently leaves that massive sum out of the pie charts on our rates notices. The Treasurer clearly has no plan to address this and no plan to restore the budget to surplus. One of the few things papering over the cracks is revenue from conveyance duty, which might be gone eventually, although of course some of the commentators are sceptical about that.

This is a Treasurer who inherited a balanced budget from his predecessors. As we have heard for years now, he likes to blame the territory’s financial challenges on everything but his own mismanagement—the global financial crisis, Mr Fluffy, COVID—and he will say that all other states and territories are in a similar boat. None of that could be further from the truth.

The reality is that the Treasurer started taking on debt in 2012-13 and has not stopped since. The result is that the ACT budget is now in the worst position ever, because it was already shaky at the onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020. The result is gross fiscal mismanagement by the Treasurer, in contravention of the Financial Management Act.

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