Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 630 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Some of the achievements so far include: The continued reduction in workers compensation premiums which reflect the decreasing risk rating of the ACT for workers compensation as a result of improved OH and S policies and management - the Government is certainly to be congratulated on the way that it has improved workers' safety and indeed has then been rewarded with reduced premiums; an improved government accommodation strategy that has led to ongoing savings; the transfer of works and commercial services to a corporation which has fundamentally reduced the cost of providing these services; strategic partnership arrangements with InTACT; reductions in the size of the Senior Executive Service; and the establishment of externally chaired audit committees in our departments, which has brought greater rigour and scrutiny to financial controls and financial decision-making processes within agencies.
As an operating principle, Mr Speaker, the Government has moved to greater use of cost recovery as an option through the recognition of a range of services costed as recoverable service delivery costs rather than as overheads. This has encouraged a more critical review in each instance of the level of these costs. If you do not know what your costs are it is very hard to reduce the debt. There is provision in the 1997-98 budget for catastrophe insurance coverage and the development of options for a self-insurance fund to provide suitable coverage and management of insurable risks to minimise the annual impact of claims against the Territory.
Mr Speaker, all of these initiatives have reaped substantial benefits to the Territory in an environment where the economy was sluggish and funding was being substantially reduced. In fact, the operating loss has decreased from over $340m to less than $160m and continues to show signs of reductions. Any suggestion that this Government is not committed to reducing the operating loss is sadly mistaken. We will continue to pursue objectives in the best financial interests of the Territory in order to achieve the ongoing results we have witnessed to date. We will not be transferring debt to future generations, Mr Speaker. We will not be expecting those that come after us to pay for our mismanagement.
It is extremely important that all other members of this Assembly also understand the imperative of ultimately eliminating the operating loss. Living beyond our means, like we are doing now, is socially destructive and totally irresponsible to future generations. Whenever, as a young boy many years ago, we went to dad to get extra pocket money he always said, "If you cannot afford to pay, you do not go". As we travel through the budget process and the length of this Assembly, I think one of the things that we have to w0ork out is: How do we afford to pay and where do we take the ACT? A critical part of that is how we manage our debt problems. In this Assembly we all - not just members of the Government - are bound by our responsibility to today's community and the community of tomorrow to live within our means. This Government is committed to this and I urge all other members to be so committed.
MR QUINLAN (12.17): The ALP shares the anxiety that is reflected in this motion. We have been concerned to observe over the last few years, contrary to some of the elements of Mr Smyth's reading exercise, that budgets have been balanced in this city by bodgie borrowing; the so-called sale-lease, which was exposed by the Auditor-General, involving a process of transferring debt to the future, which you have just denied in your exercise; the spending of $100m worth of reserves of ACTEW last year, which is