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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (4 May) . . Page.. 1250..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

The Chief Minister claimed that either a $10 million or an $18 million a year initiative would return the ACT budget to surplus. That is simply wrong. It shows the level of ineptitude of the current Treasurer—

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Gentleman): The member's time has expired.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (5.12): The importance of the government's functional and strategic review is again emphasised by this matter of public importance brought forward by Mrs Burke today. Obviously we cannot discuss the details of the report or its recommendations. We dealt with this issue yesterday. The review is a strategic report for cabinet. The government's decisions will be made transparent in the budget and fully explained. We will be accountable for our decisions.

The ACT has a strong economy with low unemployment and considerable further growth prospects. It has excellent infrastructure, a well-educated work force and strong policy and research institutions. The ACT community is well served by high-quality public services and infrastructure. The ACT community has above average incomes and expectations of government. Compared with the other states, the ACT provides higher levels of service in nearly all sectors. The government strongly supports high standards in levels of public service in the ACT. It has ensured that programs receive the funding they need to deliver high service levels. The government has had to deal with a number of areas neglected by the previous government, including mental health, disability services and child protection. The government has also had to deal with the consequences of the 2003 bushfires.

This government has delivered operating surpluses while making those significant investments in services to the community. The ACT government has a AAA credit rating. It has maintained its very strong balance sheet, low debt and an excellent record of financial management. For this strategy to be sustainable over the longer term, it is essential that strong financial management policies be maintained. This is the context and the purpose of the review. This type of review is not new. Governments of all persuasions do them from time to time. They are very relevant in taking time out to assess the effectiveness of government arrangements and services.

The review's terms of reference were deliberately wide ranging to look deep into the ACT public service and government services provided by departments and agencies. The review's task was not limited in its intent and was designed to give cabinet the best information on the future directions for the territory. It was also to give first-hand, frank advice on the potential risks facing the government into the medium and longer terms.

The government called for the review to obtain independent expert advice on the challenges facing the economy, the best way to support business growth and to ensure that community services are being supported as cost-effectively as possible. This government was not afraid to receive frank and hard advice and will not back away from the changes needed to bring the territory into the next decade.

We have an excellent public service, and community expectations are high. The decisions in the budget will build on this expertise and expectations in a way that is

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