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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1960..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

you have to remember they're only estimates."But, in reality, that is only code for: "I can't control my colleagues' spending. I estimate a figure but the other ministers take no notice, so please don't blame me."However, you really have to question the ability of a treasurer who has got his expenditure wrong by an average of $180 million every year. That is significantly more than an estimating error. And remember he always prides himself on being an accountant.

So, what have we got for this spending binge? What has Canberra received for the latest $200 million blow-out? Hospital waiting lists are at record levels. Waiting times are now so dire that nearly half of all patients on the list are overdue. Crime rates are increasing, particularly property crime. Indeed anyone who has looked at London Circuit recently would bear witness to an explosion in graffiti vandalism. More disturbingly are the increases in the crimes reported against persons.

Even the little things have blown out. The average waiting time at an ACT Government Shopfront has grown from seven minutes to 12 minutes under this government. That's customer service!

Again and again we find that the core business of government is being neglected. We get the occasional bauble here, a trinket there, but fundamental services are being reduced. They are stagnating or they are failing to keep up with growth.

Looking at the broader economic picture: I believe that this budget, despite the claims of the Treasurer, is unsustainable. The government has not done anything to diversify our revenue base. It has not done anything to drought-proof the economy against future downturn. When the times are good, any prudent manager puts aside a reserve to take you through the tougher times. But this government is not a good manager. Labor has not prepared for the inevitable economic drought.

If I may use a traditional image, Mr Speaker: this government has not put hay in the shed. Labor has not stored grain in the silo and Labor has not constructed a new dam. Labor has not put cash from the good years into the economic farm management deposits or any other reserve. The Treasurer is like the biblical foolish man. Labor has done nothing to secure our future.

I find it inconceivable that we can go from a surplus of $93 million this financial year to a planned deficit of $26 million in the 2005-06 year and have nothing to show for it. But it's worse than that. There are nastier things than the deficit. If we look at the assumptions behind this budget, we see employment growth static, state final demand halved and then static, and predicted investment static. These should send clear warning bells to a prudent government or a prudent treasurer. The only louder messages these figures could send would be if they were in big, red letters that said, "Big correction coming,"but the Treasurer and his government ignore the inevitable.

The budget papers do have a little rider in them. The budget papers actually do get close to issuing this warning. If members and the population of Canberra look at page 96 of budget paper 3, it states:

The estimated outcome continues to remain flat in 2005-06 as expenditure growth outstrips revenue growth, improving in the 2006-07 forward year, as revenue growth


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