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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 05 Hansard (Friday, 14 May 2004) . . Page.. 1959 ..


At 3.00 pm, questions were interrupted pursuant to the order of the Assembly.

Appropriation Bill 2004-2005

Debate resumed from 4 May 2004, on motion by Mr Quinlan:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (3.02): It is my pleasure to present the Smyth Liberal opposition’s response to the 2004-05 budget. This budget is a budget of missed opportunity, and it’s not just me who says that, Mr Speaker. The Canberra Times, in an excellent editorial entitled “Budget misses opportunity” said that the ACT budget is:

…probably a bit of a disappointment for anyone hoping for some leadership, inspiration, or a public dividend from an economy essentially in good shape.

Mr Speaker, I couldn’t agree more. Once you pick off the cherries and the other brightly coloured bits, once you get rid of the distractions of the so-called initiatives, you will see a budget that has squandered the opportunity to secure Canberra’s future, to show leadership.

Indeed, when we look closely at this budget I think you will discover, as I did, that this is easily the most profligate budget in the territory’s history. How else, Mr Speaker, can we describe the colossal overspends by this government in a mere three years?

We have gone from an aggregate $230 million surplus over the four years from 2002-03 to 2005-06 to an aggregate surplus of only $43 million over the four years from the 2004-05 to 2007-08 financial years. Where is the public dividend that should have been accumulated by this? Where have the funds generated from the boost to revenue gone? Mr Speaker, they have been frittered away, frittered away on short-term expedient spending that will do little to position the ACT to ride out the less prosperous times that will come.

Certainly there are some good elements to the budget. There is additional spending that has been targeted to areas of particular need. There have not been any new taxes or charges proposed—perhaps a little gun shy from last year—and there has been a firm commitment to build a prison in the ACT.

Behind the hoopla, however, you will see that since coming to government Labor’s spending has grown from $2.2 billion to $2.6 billion. Labor’s budget has grown by $400 million or nearly 20 per cent. Last year I pointed out that the budget at that time had blown out from $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion and, continuing this trend, this year the government’s forecast spending of $2.4 billion has in fact reached $2.6 billion spent.

The Treasurer is fond of pointing out that the budget is really about estimates. He often dismisses concerns about the accuracies of the papers he publishes with the line: “Well,

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