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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2595 ..


Housing - Commonwealth Budget Cuts

MR WHITECROSS: My question is to the Chief Minister, Mrs Carnell. Mrs Carnell, in the Federal budget last week the Liberal Government reported, under the subheading "Housing Assistance to Other Governments", that "State Fiscal Contributions - Payment from the States and reductions in Commonwealth funding to the States" yielded them $10.4m. A footnote further explains that this is a "component relating to reduction in Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement Specific Purpose Payments, as nominated by the States". On closer examination, it appears that the State that nominated this reduction was, in fact, the ACT. In fact, Mr Stefaniak was reported in the Canberra Times as saying that it was not his fault; Mrs Carnell made him do it.

Mr Stefaniak: You have an interesting style of reading, Andrew.

MR WHITECROSS: You said it, Mr Stefaniak. Mrs Carnell, $10.4m is the same amount as you agreed, on behalf of the ACT, to pay back to the Commonwealth this financial year to satisfy Howard's and Costello's budget cuts. Why did you decide that public housing would pay the full cost of that? How do you justify this cut to the housing program when you previously used the same $10.4m cut by Howard and Costello to justify increases in payroll tax and sales tax?

MRS CARNELL: If only the cut was only $10.4m, Mr Speaker; if only! I think I made the comment at the time I spoke about the changes in payroll tax particularly that the increase in payroll tax would be along the lines of the New South Wales Labor Government increase; it was going to pay for only some - and I repeat "some" - of the increase. Unfortunately, the ACT finds itself in a position where the cuts from the Federal Government are closer to $25m. On top of that, Mr Speaker, we have a situation where the reduction that the ACT is facing is an actual reduction in revenue as a result of a very sluggish economy at this stage.

Add to that the significant wage pressure as a result of the enterprise bargaining agreements. If those opposite had got their way when they were supporting the unions' 9 per cent fully budget funded increase, as they were, then I can tell you, Mr Speaker, we would not have been able to spend any money on anything; we would not have had a housing program at all. The fact is that we did not go down that path, and we have managed to come up with agreements with the trade unions to enterprise bargains that I think have at least addressed the problems of both sides; in other words, a good negotiating approach.

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