Page 3843 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 November 2022

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We know there has been a little bit of focus group and research work done because you mob refer to everything as “the tram”. It is as if you have thrown the red meat into the conservative focus group and that is the word they do not like, so you are just going to keep on using that, back and forth, back and forth.

Mr Parton: It was actually chicken! Some vegetarians among them.

MR BARR: It is an interesting bunch of conservatives who want to be fed chicken, Mr Parton. Very good. Whether you are throwing them red meat or chicken, either way, this week largely has been about attempting to solidify the conservative base of the Canberra Liberals. We have had a series of private members’ motions that have sought to stoke culture wars, and here we are again for the tenth year—

Mr Parton: Culture wars. Men’s health is culture wars? Did we support it in 2020? Did we support it?

MR BARR: Who knows what your position was in 2020? You had about seven different opinions in the course of the election campaign. It depended on which day and which person. You are probably the most consistent on it, Mr Parton, because you have always opposed it. That is very clear. But some of your colleagues, having suffered the defeat of 2016 and the defeat of 2012, decided in 2020 that maybe this was not the space you were going to go into. What was it that Split Enz sang—“History never repeats”? Not for the Canberra Liberals. Here we are again. I feel like we have seen this movie before.

Nevertheless, the main accusation from the opposition leader related to the affordability of the project and the territory’s fiscal position, so I think it is important to put a few things on the record. I know that the level of public debt is an absolute obsession with some in the Liberal Party. It is certainly larger as a result of the pandemic; there is no doubt of that. But the interest expense for the territory is four per cent of our general government sector expenses—four per cent. What is overlooked in this debate, consistently, is that on the other side of the equation our interest income is three per cent of GGS revenue and our investment revenue is a further three per cent. So on the question of loans versus our assets and the return on our investments, as a share of the general government sector it is six per cent on the revenue side and four per cent in relation to general government sector expenses.

It may have escaped the notice of the Leader of the Opposition that on Tuesday the September quarter 2022 consolidated financial report for this fiscal year was tabled in the Assembly. I thought it was worthwhile focusing on that, because in the September quarter the general government sector was operating at a surplus of nearly $410 million, $81.7 million higher than the September year to date budget.

The improvement was due to the strength of our economy, but it was both increased revenue and less expenditure. As interest rates are normalising, the territory’s net financial liabilities are also normalising, to the tune of being lower by $2.3 billion. This is a result, as I think we have canvassed extensively, of the long-term superannuation liability. But let us be clear: the territory’s total assets are in the order of $43 billion. Our net debt is a little over $5 billion. Our net financial liability is $9.7 billion. The territory’s net worth is $21.2 billion.

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