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Ministerial Statement

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister), by leave: Mr Speaker, this evening I am announcing a new, streamlined and more focused structure for the ACT Government Service. In February this year, the Canberra community voted for change. The Liberal Party went to that election with a clear commitment to a more open, city-style administration, an administration that focuses more clearly on its main tasks - delivering services to the people of the ACT. If those services can be delivered more efficiently, we have a responsibility to change the way we do things. This does not mean rejecting the good things that have been done in the past.

The ACT Government is the newest government in Australia. It is only just five years old - six, I believe. I believe that it is a fantastic achievement to have done as much as we have in such a short period of time, particularly the creation of our separate public service - even though my party would not have done it in quite the same way if we had been handling it. We have a lot for which to thank the people who worked within the Commonwealth Public Service to establish Canberra as the city that it is today, with its wonderful infrastructure, its natural setting and its range of community facilities. But there is a downside. With self-government, we inherited a public service tradition that derives more from managing Commonwealth responsibilities than from delivering services directly to the local community. Not only are we paying more for some services, such as health and education, and not receiving substantially better quality or value for money, but also we are lagging behind other States in terms of public sector best practice. We cannot continue to be an island, with the business of the Assembly focused more on developing an architecture of legislation that celebrates our uniqueness. We must focus on the business of government.

Our reform objectives are similar to those recently set in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. They are: Service delivery that is appropriate, responsive and efficient; growth in the private sector; rational and efficient regulation where it is required; integrated planning for Canberra's future; responsible and accountable financial planning and management; and a work force that is committed, flexible, skilled and innovative. To achieve these, we must look at what we do and how we do it. We must measure our performance, not only against the goals we set for ourselves but also against the performance of State and local governments elsewhere. “Competitive tendering” and “corporatisation” are not terms that we have invented to terrorise our work force or our community. In fact, in Canberra, we have a long history of contracting out services of various kinds. Strategies to address the structure of government by concentrating on its core business, to develop stronger links with the private sector and to put some of our organisations on a more commercial footing must be put in place if we are to survive as a competitive, best practice model of regional government in Australia.

Even the Labor New South Wales Government is strongly pursuing a reform agenda. Michael Egan, the New South Wales Treasurer, recently said that competition reform “will produce major economic benefits for Australia and the Government is determined to see that New South Wales consumers, business and employees are winners”. Well, so are we! Like the new Labor Government in New South Wales,

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