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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 5 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

confrontation after confrontation. My colleague Mr Berry will be addressing the industrial relations aspects of this issue, but I can say that never have I seen a government take a more confrontationist approach to the legitimate concerns of trade unions in this community. I think that it would behove the Government to listen very carefully to the view of this Assembly when we say that we expect that this issue will be resolved.

Resolution of the issue requires negotiation. Negotiation requires two parties at a table in discussion on the various merits of their positions. We have not seen any will on the part of Mrs Carnell or her Government to enter into that sort of meaningful negotiation. I believe that it is time, as an Assembly with the best interests of our own community at heart, that we expressed our view to the Government. We have chosen to move not in a way that threatens the Government but in a way that expresses strongly the view of the Assembly to the Government. As an Assembly, we have a responsibility to act on behalf of our community. I think that the community could expect no less of us in these very serious circumstances.

As I said, Mr Berry will be addressing many of the industrial relations aspects, but there are two aspects of this matter that I want to address. The first of those is Mrs Carnell's misrepresentation of the financial impact of the unions' claims. There are two issues to be looked at seriously here. I hope that the Independents are listening to the arguments on both sides of this question. Mrs Carnell has said in public, and has said many times in yet another of her classic PR exercises, that the unions' claim, if agreed to, would impact enormously on the rates that Canberra ratepayers pay. In fact, she has said that it would cause a 31 per cent rise in rates. This is a totally dishonest claim. It is a classic case of lies, damned lies and statistics; and Mrs Carnell ought to be ashamed, as her colleagues ought to be ashamed, of perpetrating such a misrepresentation of the facts.

The fact of the matter is that the ACT's rates constitute 13 per cent of the ACT's revenue yearly. There is no reason whatsoever for the unions' pay claim to be taken, in whole or in part, from that 13 per cent of revenue. In fact, that revenue is levied on Canberra ratepayers in order to pay for municipal services. If the pay claim were granted in its entirety and it was spread evenly across the ACT's revenue base, the impact on the rates would be 4 per cent. Last year, we saw Mrs Carnell put the rates up by 4 per cent, for no reason at all. Those are facts that Mrs Carnell will not, of course, put to the community, because they are honest statements. In seeking to perpetuate this myth about the impact on rates, she is really perpetuating a total misrepresentation of the facts.

There is another issue that I want to address on the broader aspect of government financing. The fact of the matter is that a government decides its priorities for expenditure, and that is the right of government. In deciding its priorities, of course, it is bound by the amount of available funds. But I would ask members to look at page 81 of Budget Paper No. 3, as distributed by Mrs Carnell as Treasurer. You will see from page 81 of Budget Paper No. 3 that, in fact, the Consolidated Fund - the area of the budget where salaries and wages are paid from - is in quite massive surplus. You will see, if you look at the Government's own budget papers, that, in fact, in the 1994-95 year there was a $43m surplus in the Consolidated Fund; in 1995-96 there is a $42m surplus in the Consolidated Fund; and for the outyears 1996-97 to 1998-99 that surplus is projected by Mrs Carnell, in her own documents, to rise from $50m to $65m to $84m. That is where salaries get paid from.

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