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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1461..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

increase federal government employment in the territory. We applaud that, whilst exhibiting some nervousness around the labour force shortages experienced here in the ACT.

In a broader sense, a range of decisions have been taken that we all applaud in relation to enhanced funding, for instance, of medical research as well as some funding for apprenticeships. There has been an increase in the cap on the number of childcare places, though notably no increase in the number of childcare centres. Of course, that is where the crying demand is. As I indicated earlier, there are significant initiatives in superannuation and support for the ageing, but no additional aged care places, where the most significant pressure in relation to aged care is. There are some particularly encouraging aspects to the budget. For the territory, it is a pleasing outcome.

I conclude by confirming that the impact on the ACT budget bottom line of the GST funding for 2005-06—despite the Treasurer's rhetoric—is $1.4 million. Some commentators and others have been suggesting that there was a $60 million advantage to the budget. In fact, in terms of published figures and budgeting for the impact of the GST on this year's budget it is $1 million. Indeed, it reduces by $2 million in the next financial year.

MR SPEAKER: The minister's time has expired.

MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Despite the undoubted benefits, can the Treasurer say whether there are significant gaps in the approach taken by the commonwealth in last night's budget?

MR STANHOPE: There are. If one were to pursue an objective analysis of the budget and of the strategic policy vision that it presents, one could argue that there are gaps. Of course, this is the case in any budget. It is just as big, tough and hard a job for a federal Liberal government to prepare a budget as it is for a Labor territory government to prepare a budget.

Mr Smyth: No; they're in surplus!

MR STANHOPE: It probably is a bit easier when you are in surplus. Having now delivered only surplus budgets, that is certainly my experience. I can understand that—as one moves from a surplus budget position to a deficit budget—the nature of the challenge changes. My experience of course is only with surplus budgets; it is all we have ever delivered. Through the delivery of surplus budgets, we have accumulated significant surpluses over the years.

I make that point in the context that it is never an easy job for any cabinet in any budget situation: hard decisions have to be made and there are competing priorities. But it can be argued—I make the preamble just to make the point that it is a tough job—and argued objectively, if one cares to take the time to think about the future and the nature of the responsibility that vests in the federal government in relation to budgeting and this particular budget. There is only one budget a year. You miss the opportunity this year, then you wait another 12 months and the opportunity might have gone.

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