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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4408..


MR QUINLAN: Okay. I will presume that you do not know what you are talking about and you are asking me the party question. I was cruel enough in the past once or twice to ask members to ask the same question in a different way just to check on whether they actually knew what they were talking about, and I am sorry, Mr Cornwell.

Certainly, there was some time ago in relation to the territory's superannuation liability, as shown in the balance sheet, a very significant adjustment, a very favourable adjustment in the actual level of that liability. Historically, an adjustment like that would just fall to below the operating line and would be an abnormal item which gives the final adjusted operating result. A number of years ago when, I think, Mrs Carnell was the Treasurer-she is no longer here-and Mr Lilley was the Under Treasurer, a scheme was devised or a standard adopted from America, apparently, whereby those changes would be amortised over 12 years, I think.

Mr Humphries: It was approved by the Auditor-General, too.

MR QUINLAN: It was approved by the Auditor-General; that is right.

Mrs Dunne: And he hasn't changed his mind.

MR QUINLAN: Funny thing, Mrs Dunne, he has, and that is exactly what we are talking about.

Mrs Dunne: Not when he was at estimates, he hadn't.

MR QUINLAN: Just in case Hansard did not pick it up, Mrs Dunne interjected, "Not when he was in estimates, he hasn't."I am advised that the Auditor-General has changed his mind and now believes that, in fact, all of the adjustment should be written off.

In previous years we have seen a benefit, if you like, included by Liberal governments in their budgets above the line of heading up towards $30 million for the year. We are in debate with the Auditor-General on that. First of all, I rather agree with him that the thing should be changed. We have a bit of a disagreement as to the timing of that change inasmuch as I think it would only be right and proper that, for the information of the people of the ACT, we at least prepare statements on the same basis as the previous year and we do not start comparing apples with pears.

In fact, I was prepared to wear, if you like, an audit qualification in order that we could come to this point, Mr Cornwell, that we could actually discuss this matter in the house, because there has been a 180-degree change in the Auditor's approach. I know that the Auditor's word is generally taken as holy writ, but it does actually show, quite appropriately, and thank you for bringing it up, Mr Cornwell, that auditors can have opinions and can have differing opinions on the same matter from time to time.

MR CORNWELL: I have a supplementary question. Treasurer, how will the government respond to the implications flowing from this disagreement for the territory's financial statements, not its superannuation situation, in terms of operating results and the financial position?

Mr Quinlan: Sorry, there was one verb I missed in that.


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