Page 1019 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 20 April 1994

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  Wednesday, 20 April 1994


MADAM SPEAKER (Ms McRae) took the chair at 10.30 am and read the prayer.


MR HUMPHRIES (10.31): I present the Government Contractual Debts (Interest) Bill 1994.

Title read by Clerk.

MR HUMPHRIES: Madam Speaker, I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This Bill is being introduced to combat the problem that governments, from time to time, pay their creditors late, for no good reason. This problem does not arise often, I have to concede, at least in the ACT context; but, when it does arise, it is very serious for those affected by it. The ACT Government is one of the largest consumers of goods and services in the Territory. It has to accept the responsibility to its business creditors to pay its bills on time in that circumstance.

In 1990-91, according to figures issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Reserve Bank, the ACT Government spent $823m on consumables. That is an $823m injection into businesses in this town, a substantial number of which are Canberra's small businesses. Other figures which show how important the Government is in the overall consumer chain include the fact that in 1950 governments generally in Australia consumed 15 per cent of GDP and by 1985 that figure had increased to 45 per cent of GDP. The ACT Government has a responsibility to ensure that it plays its part in the market chain by paying its accounts on time.

Madam Speaker, I suspect that generally the ACT Government actually has a better record on these sorts of matters than have most governments around this country, but it is certainly not beyond criticism in respect of paying accounts. In 1985, for example, the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce completed a survey which showed that, on average, government departments were taking an average of 87 days to pay accounts. Countless anecdotal evidence exists in this town of the Commonwealth Government being very late in paying customers large sums of money that they were owed. One person who rang my office told me that she was required to take out an overdraft of over $10,000 to pay an income tax bill, even though her business was owed over $15,000 by one

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