Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 631 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
reducing the wealth carried forward to future generations, contrary to your reading exercise; the planned contrivance of selling streetlighting systems to ACTEW, which is something they do not need and obviously would not want; and the reductions over the last few years of actual provisions for superannuation.
We talk about superannuation as being the major problem in the ACT finances. The ALP provided substantially more to offset that growing liability than has been provided in the last few years. We have seen budgets balanced on a spurious basis in the pursuit of popularity through ad hoc approaches. We read in the last couple of budgets and in regular reports from the Office of Financial Management of the cargo cult mentality that, when our very fast train comes in, everything will be okay. In the meantime, we can flog off our future heritage and we can dip into reserves that ought, responsibly, be used over a much longer period.
We see the commonsense in squarely facing the superannuation problem. We do not for a moment accept that the answer lies in immediately reducing the Public Service packages of lower- and middle-income earners within the public sector. That is childish logic and is typical, really, of the simplistic solutions that have been applied over the last few years. So there is no silver bullet to solving the superannuation problem. It is the biggie in our finances. I am certain that the solution lies in a reasonably sophisticated analysis of the level of unfunded superannuation liability that we can carry, because there is never going to be a point in time when all of those superannuation funds are demanded. There must be a considerable level that never needs to be funded in the foreseeable future, so we can actually start to dilute the scare figure of $1.7 billion.
We can also hope to see a return to a sensible level of cash provision out of revenues, which is something that the ALP demonstrated a commitment to when it was in government but which has been abrogated since by the Liberals. And we can sensibly use borrowing and our credit rating to smooth out the fluctuations which are inevitable with the passing through of that rump of baby boomers in the Public Service followed by the 0dearth in recruitment within the public sector. We are very concerned that these problems mean an immediate flight to the solution of asset sales which economically can be as bad as, if not worse than, the taking on of debt. Everybody in this place, I am sure, knows that we are vehemently opposed to the sale of public assets, particularly to balance budgets, as we have seen before under some quite bodgie arrangements.
Having said that, I want to address the question of asset sales a little further. The conspiracy theorist in me becomes alarmed when I see a succession of very dubious figures promulgated as to the performance of ACTTAB - figures quite obviously designed to mislead us and the community on the actual economic performance of ACTTAB. Then we receive in succession the Fay Richwhite report on ACTEW followed by the Towers Perrin report on superannuation. Are you starting to get a progression out of this? And this is in the lead-up to the 1998-99 budget. I suppose now we wait for a further report from Huey, Dewey and Louie or Proposition Laundering Pty Ltd, or whatever, as to the future of ACTEW which will say, "Sell it". It seems to me to be a progression in a very simplistic softening up process. I am confident that Mr Osborne's motion is quite independent of this progression and born of his concern; but, before any