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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (19 May) . . Page.. 355 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

outstanding debt and to bring it down; indeed, to produce a surplus". Whether the surplus is a real surplus in accrual terms is another matter. I do not think that it is quite as rosy as it might appear to be at first blush, but it is an attempt to put Australia's economy back in the black.

Mr Speaker, those who are concerned about jobs, who are concerned about the economic viability of our nation, who are concerned about the capacity to create opportunities to protect in the future the vulnerable ones that Ms Tucker referred to, should all be comforted by the attempts to put the Australian economy, and the Australian Federal budget in particular, back in the black. For that, I think we should be grateful for this budget.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (4.19), in reply: Mr Speaker, one of the things I have been fascinated with in listening to this debate is the huge lack of capacity of a number of people in this house to come to grips with reality. I hope that is not going to be the case in the future. Like many people, I am hopeful that this Assembly will be different from those in the past and will be able to come to grips with some of the very hard issues.

We have heard around the Assembly today lots of comments about how, basically, the ACT should pick up the tab for Commonwealth Government downsizing, that the ACT should not address the operating loss or should address it in some way, but I do not know what. It seems that Mr Stanhope's view was that we should not take the incremental approach that we have taken to reduce our expenditure, that we should not go down that path anymore. I do not know what he is going to do about the operating loss if that is the case. Ms Tucker believes that we should just spend more money. Of course, as Mr Humphries said, if we do that, not only do we give our kids a debt and a problem but also we reduce our own capacity to move and to manage the Territory. What has the Federal Government's surplus at this stage achieved for Australia? It has achieved for Australia a capacity to weather the storm of the Asian financial crisis in a much better way than would have been the case if the Australian economy were still operating at a loss or still had the $10 billion black hole that the Keating-Beazley approach gave to Australia.

I think that it is an important message for the ACT, Mr Speaker. I do not expect Mr Berry to understand this or, possibly, others even to listen; but, Mr Speaker, if the ACT does not get its own house in order, as all the States are getting their houses back in order, if we do not reduce our operating loss, the ACT's flexibility and capacity to cope with changing economic climates become significantly worse. The only way we can compete with the States, the only way we can make sure that the ACT is protected in the future, is by getting our own budget in order. The Federal Government has shown better than any speech I could ever give in this house that if your own house is in order you have a much greater capacity to weather any storms from without. We must get our budget back into a similar situation. Certainly, if we take the approach of those opposite and Ms Tucker it will never happen. I think that would be an absolute tragedy for the people of Canberra. Obviously, the people of Canberra believe that, too, because we were elected on the basis of better economic management.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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