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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1993 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 20 May 1993) . . Page.. 1672 ..

Budget Strategy

MR KAINE: I direct a question to the Treasurer. After today there are only three sitting days of the Assembly before the budget session. Is it your intention during one of those three days to table a budget strategy statement so that we can get some inkling of where you think you might be going in preparing a budget?

MS FOLLETT: Madam Speaker, I am giving consideration to a range of matters to do with the budget and also to the strategy that we must follow. There is a bit of a difficulty with timing, though, because, as Mr Kaine has pointed out, the Assembly sits in June but the Premiers Conference is not until July. So there is a timing difficulty in this particular year. Nevertheless, Madam Speaker, it is a matter which I am considering. If it is possible to prepare a strategy in that time it will certainly be presented to this Assembly.

MR KAINE: I ask a supplementary question, Madam Speaker. The Chief Minister talked earlier, in connection with the capital works program, of there being a practice. The practice of tabling a budget strategy statement was instituted by T. Kaine when he was Chief Minister, and this Chief Minister has followed that ever since. The strategy statement that I put out in 1990 was actually published in March, and the one that the Chief Minister published last year was published in early June. The Chief Minister is well aware of the sitting pattern of this Assembly and has had plenty of opportunity to present such a strategy, if she has one. Is the fact that she is still thinking about it indicative of what is worrying the rest of us, namely, that she in fact has no strategy and has not the faintest idea of how to go about bridging the budget gap?

MS FOLLETT: Madam Speaker, briefly, Mr Kaine's budget strategy was basically a Liberal diatribe about slashing the public service, contracting out, increasing taxes and reducing services to the community. I recall it well. He did not face, as we do this year, a 21 per cent reduction in Commonwealth funding as implied by the Grants Commission report. That does change matters somewhat, Madam Speaker, and it is, of course, something to which the Government has to give a great deal of consideration. As I have said several times in the past, we have to do our best to negotiate with the Commonwealth in order to get some amelioration of that Grants Commission outcome, and that is the process that I am involved in at the moment. Obviously, as the weeks go by, I will be in a better position to be optimistic or otherwise about that Grants Commission outlook.

Mr Kaine is quite right in saying that in previous years I have presented a budget strategy, and in the normal course of events I would have expected to do so this year. As I say, the Grants Commission report has changed the way that we must look at this budget, has changed the outlook over coming years, and I have reported to the Assembly on the position which I am putting to the Commonwealth on the Grants Commission report. As I say, Madam Speaker, it is a matter which I am still considering. Of course, if there is to be a budget strategy statement it will have to be made in those three days in June, which timing does not suit the Premiers Conference and other key events terribly well.

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