Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 March 2005 2005) . . Page.. 782 ..
MR SPEAKER: Mr Stanhope, could you withdraw the inference that Mr—
MR STANHOPE: Do I have to move a substantive motion? Maybe, if there is not a personal explanation after question time, we might have to give some consideration to that. I am sure Mr Mulcahy has the grace to acknowledge his grievous error. I withdraw.
MR STANHOPE: I am taken by anyone who stands up in this place and says, “It is not my habit to mislead,” and then makes—
Mr Mulcahy: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I have asked a question seeking clarification from the Acting Treasurer as to the correct version of events—that provided by his Labor colleague in Sydney or by his own Treasurer. I am asking if he could clarify whether the commonwealth has been generous or whether we have been short-changed.
MR SPEAKER: Chief Minister.
MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Every year, in the weeks before the Treasurers conference, a New South Wales treasurer, sometimes in the company of a Victorian treasurer, will stand up and say that the revenues of the commonwealth are being unfairly distributed and, in particular, the mendicant jurisdictions—Tasmania, the ACT, South Australia and the Northern Territory—all receive far more than they are entitled to. It happens, I think, just about every year. You could almost predict it. It goes with that press release that the P&C put out during the first week of term every year about compulsory fees. The week before the Treasurers conference, a press release comes out from Victoria and New South Wales that the ACT, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and South Australia get far more money than the snivelling residents of those jurisdictions deserve—underperforming, underpaying, undeserving.
Of course it is a nonsense. Obviously, impressed by Treasurer Ted Quinlan’s brief summation of the statement from Dr Refshauge as—what did he call it?—simplistic trash, I endorse that description absolutely. I must say I thought Mr Quinlan got to the nub of it—simplistic trash. That is what it is, and that is what it was.
The nature of our federation—the essential elements of fiscal equalisation, the accepted deal that we did at federation that the wealth of the nation would be shared equally amongst all the people of the nation, irrespective of where they lived—is a fundamental, foundation principle of federation. Through that accepted principle, the Commonwealth Grants Commission every year determines what the split, the spread, of commonwealth funds to states and territories should be. As a result, a whole range of factors is taken into account.
One of the major factors that impact on and affect the ACT, of course, is our revenue raising capacity. We are the national capital. We do suffer some disabilities in relation to the breadth of our economy and the capacity for us to raise revenues by other than a fairly narrow suite of possibilities. We have no manufacturing industry; we have no mines; we have no primary industries to speak of. We have a narrow revenue base; we are the national capital. The commonwealth is the major landholder or ratepayer within