Page 1939 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 27 June 2023

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advantage for us in swapping the debt at this point in time. Were it to be waived then that would reduce the territory’s net debt by the equivalent of the waiver amount but obviously, as Mr Davis indicated in the preamble, we would then be committed to spending the money anyway, which at the moment would be borrowed, and borrowed at about 4 and a half percent. I think there is an issue of principle and I support the thrust of the question. Yes, we are continuing to engage with the commonwealth but the wind-fall gain moment, if you like, of a lower interest rate has now passed. That does not mean that there is not value in having the debt waived. We would then commit to spending the money, and the interest payments that we would not have to make, on public housing. Of course, there have been some subsequent announcements in relation to commonwealth support for the territory to build more public housing, which I suspect Mr Davis might touch on in follow up questions.

MR DAVIS: Chief Minister, was the ACT’s $90 million escrow public housing debt raised with the Prime Minister when he announced giving us $50 million for public housing, particularly as that $50 million was due to land in our bank account just as we gave the federal government $12 million.

MR BARR: I did give some consideration to effectively doing a debt swap; not taking $50 million in cash and just seeking it as a reduction in the total level of the debt. That would have meant though that we would add nothing to the housing stock, so we just use the $50 million to reduce our debt. I do not think this is an outcome that would have met the intent of the Prime Minister’s allocation of funding to the states and territories, or indeed what I think is a collective view in this place, that we should be spending more money on public housing. So I welcome the fact that the commonwealth government is giving the states and territories more money. Our commitment is to spend that money now rather than focus on debt reduction. There will be a time and place for debt reduction, but right now, if given the choice Mr Davis, I think we should spend $50 million on building more public housing not paying down debt.

MS CLAY: What plans do you have for spending the new $50 million received under the Social Housing Accelerator?

MR BARR: Thank you Ms Clay for the question. The requirement is that first ministers bring back to the next national cabinet meeting, which is scheduled either for late August or early September, our implementation plan to expend the funds over the coming two fiscal years. Our cabinet has determined that the Deputy Chief Minister as Minister for Housing will prepare that plan for me to take to that national cabinet meeting. It is our intent to spend it in accordance with the terms under which it was granted to the territory and that is to grow the social housing stock.

Canberra Health Services—outpatient waiting lists

MS CASTLEY: Madam Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health. In response to a Canberra Weekly story on the Auditor-General’s scathing comments on Operation Reboot, a CHS spokesperson said:

It is important not to underestimate just how challenging the COVID-19 environment was in the peak of the pandemic.

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