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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 1039..


MR QUINLAN (continuing):

Assembly and includes $0.36 million funding for the Department of Urban Services for, amongst other things, further fire fuel reduction and co-ordination of fire management activities; $0.175 million for the Department of Urban Services for urgent revegetation work in fire-affected areas in the Canberra Nature Park and the Murrumbidgee River corridor; $0.18 million funding to the Department of Urban Services for fast-tracking of conservation work in the Cotter catchment to repair damage that has occurred subsequent to the January 2003 fires; $1 million for funding to the Department of Urban Services for the repair and replacement of fences damaged or destroyed in the January 2003 fire. The Department of Justice and Community Safety is provided with $0.275 million for additional accommodation for the Emergency Services Bureau staff; $0.275 million for a new generator at the Emergency Services Bureau that will provide an abundant source of electricity for this key site, and garaging facilities; and $2 million for the continuation of the coronial investigations into the January 2003 bushfire. ACT Housing is provided with $33.2 million to address homelessness and housing affordability. This represents a significant step in addressing the public housing needs of ACT residents.

In summary, this appropriation bill will provide for the government's initial response to the recommendations of the Canberra plan and its subplans. The appropriation provides additional funding for bushfire initiatives and continues the government's commitment to adequately prepare the ACT for future bushfire seasons. It continues to provide fair and equitable remuneration for staff and it provides a significant injection of funds into public and community housing sectors. The impact on the operating result is $104 million, of which $66 million was already factored into the operating result produced in the mid-year review. This result is a net provision for enterprise bargaining agreements, included within the 2003-04 budget. They certainly have amounted to a considerable sum as we bring public sector wages only up to Australian averages as it is.

The ability to finance the bill comes from strong performance in revenues to date and the redistribution of surplus funds from the home loan portfolio, which probably should have been redistributed before this. This is a responsible bill. It redistributes the strong performance in revenues back to the community. Recent times have witnessed calls for windfall budgetary gains to be expended for the benefit of the community. So I do not anticipate major objections other than those that might be politically based. Our financial position remains strong. This is confirmed by recent commentary from Access Economics in its March 2004 Budget Monitor, in which it states that:

The ACT's public finances are fire-proofed by its incredibly strong balance sheet. While there may be future risks, it is difficult to imagine even the worse-case scenarios doing much damage to these finances over the foreseeable future.

For the information of members, I also table the supplementary budget papers in accordance with section 13 of the Financial Management Act, and I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned to the next sitting.


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