Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 7 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 1804 ..
Ms McRae: They will put a toll on their roads next. What about a toll on the roads?
MR SPEAKER: Order, Ms McRae!
MRS CARNELL: Nor should we any longer be subsidising the Federal Government to utilise our city. Those opposite seem to think this is funny. The fact is that ACT taxpayers should not be subsidising either New South Wales or, for that matter, the Federal Government, and we will be doing everything in our power to ensure that that does not happen in the future.
Just as an illustration, because it still seems that those opposite believe that this approach is somewhat of a joke, we have in recent days taken on the New South Wales Government with regard to cross-border charges for patients who use ACT hospitals. In the past, the amount of money that the ACT Government has got has been virtually national average; in other words, 30 per cent below what it actually costs us to treat patients. We have managed, in this cross-border approach, after significant negotiations, to actually get about $3m extra; so it does show that going down this path can produce real benefits to the ACT and to the taxpayer, and it simply is not a laughing matter.
MR KAINE: Through you, Mr Speaker, I have a question of the Chief Minister and Treasurer. Chief Minister, it is my recollection that ever since self-government we have had some concerns about the level of workers compensation payments to Comcare; they seem to have risen year after year and seem to have been virtually out of control. This Government last year said that they were going to fix this. Chief Minister, on that basis, can you inform the Assembly whether the reforms that you have put in place have had any impact yet and whether or not the media reports this morning indicating considerable savings to the Territory are, in fact, true?
MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Kaine. You point out quite rightly that workers compensation premiums have represented a substantial and growing cost to ACT taxpayers since self-government. Our Comcare premium in 1990-91 was about $15m, increasing to $21.4m in 1993-94 and to $33.45m in the current financial year. Even allowing for the Commonwealth decision to create a separate ACT premium pool in 1994-95, the premium increase over the last four years has been almost 80 per cent - a substantial increase. That $33.45m represents 5.2 per cent of our total wages bill. By contrast, other jurisdictions with similar responsibilities pay between 2.5 and 3 per cent of their wages bill in workers compensation premiums. To put that into perspective, $33.45m is roughly equivalent to the entire sports, arts and emergency services budgets combined. It is a major drain upon our budget.