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A centrepiece of this three-year budget and a key election promise was a further significant reduction in the taxation burden on businesses. We will achieve this through a more substantial increase in the payroll tax threshold to $800,000 from 1 January 1997. This is a $13.5m benefit to local businesses. A further 130 small- and medium-sized businesses will no longer be liable for payroll tax. It means that companies can employ about 35 people before they begin to pay payroll tax, compared with about 25 employees at present. It signals to Canberra businesses, too, that this Government is prepared to play its part in helping to foster the right economic climate for expansion and growth.

It is the intention of this Government to improve the responsiveness and standards of service that are provided by the Territory's agencies. Over the next three years the public sector will undergo major reforms aimed at giving Canberrans a public service that reflects what the customer wants - less bureaucracy and red tape, faster turnaround times, more helpful service and greater job satisfaction for staff. It is part of creating a can-do culture that Canberra needs if we are to forge ahead as a modern, innovative city. Through a customer commitment program being driven from the Chief Minister's Department, all agencies will commit resources to training and improved management systems to better meet the needs of clients.

In the area of workers compensation, a special team will be established within the Chief Minister's Department that will report directly to the Chief Executive. It will be responsible for tackling the backlog of long-term compensation cases within the public service and ensuring that all agencies establish rehabilitation systems to prevent a recurrence of this situation. The team will have the full support and cooperation of Comcare. It should be noted that, of the more than 400 long-term cases identified, more than 30 have already been resolved in the last three months under our new approach to workers compensation issues.

The Government is committed to an ACT public service focused on delivering quality programs and services to Canberrans at the least possible cost. We have included in this budget a centralised amount of $12m to fund voluntary and specifically targeted redundancies that may arise from changes to the way we operate. This compares with $17m that was set aside by the previous Government in each of the last two years for untargeted redundancies. Our approach will be linked to the maintenance of the current freeze on recruitment to ensure that the full benefits of savings from redundancies are achieved. Mr Speaker, progress will continue to be made in the area of enterprise bargaining. The Government has put to the union movement an approach that involves agency-specific bargaining under a broad framework agreement. This will enhance the capacity of agencies to achieve improved productivity at the workplace level.

I have already outlined to this Assembly the financial reform program that we will undertake. It will place the ACT ahead of all other Australian governments, both in accountability and in management. By 1 July next year all agencies will know what they are producing and what the full accrued costs are. It will mean that our second budget will reflect the true cost of the goods and services we are buying from the public and private sectors. We will be able to focus more clearly on efficiency and effectiveness. This is hardly radical stuff. It is just better management.

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