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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2391 ..


MS FOLLETT: I will leave those remarks stand and perhaps speak later on some of the other aspects.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (5.11): I shall very briefly answer Ms Follett's second response to the full budget. I do not know that she discussed the line item for the Chief Minister's Department. She spoke mostly about three departments becoming one. There is no doubt that that was done to improve efficiency and produce savings. It has achieved savings through the consolidation of corporate functions and the improvement of revenue collection methods. In the last round of rates and land tax collections the improved efficiency was quite marked.

We are also progressively introducing new information technology systems. At this stage we are doing a full review of information technology generally. Bringing the three departments together has helped quite substantially in that approach. We have also devolved personnel functions back to the departments. In other words, areas will have control of their own personnel and their own recruiting - when they are allowed to recruit again, of course. That is a sensible approach, because it allows the Chief Minister's Department to get back to its core business. The core business of the Chief Minister's Department, of course, is to be the department that services government and that controls a lot of the other things that happen in the public service generally.

Ms Follett made some fairly silly comments about the sinking fund and superannuation. It seems that Ms Follett believes that it would be better to borrow the $19m for superannuation and the $8.5m that would have gone into the sinking fund, or into debt servicing. That would have been $27.5m, as I work it out. That would have meant that we would have had to borrow $71m this year, Ms Follett, if we had taken your approach. Anybody who borrows money to pay off their debt ends up in trouble. Almost always, 99 per cent of the time, it is going to be more expensive to operate that way than it is to get the budget into surplus so that you can actually handle those sorts of payments up front. That is the approach we have taken. The budget was in a desperate state when we came to government. There could have been a $120m budget deficit if we had not made quite substantial changes to move the budget into surplus within three years so that we will be able to pay for superannuation costs and debt servicing costs up front with surplus money - not borrow to pay for them, but pay them up front. That is the only sensible approach for any good money manager.

Ms Follett also forgot to say that this budget covers emerging costs, as I am sure that Ms Follett would know. The other issue that she brought up was the issue of contracting out. The approach that this Government has taken is not the one that Ms Follett spoke about. She said that we would contract everything out. That is not true. The approach that we have taken, as with ACTION, is that we will contract out if that gives the taxpayer the best value for their dollar. Every area will be looked at on its own merits. It will be determined whether the taxpayer would get better value for money by the Government providing the service or by some other means. I think that is the only sensible way to manage the Territory.

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