Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 655 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
same sorts of things about secondary colleges. Each of these reports throws up some significant problems. It may be time for Mr Moore, for the Labor Party, for the Government, for everybody, to pay attention to those problems. If Mr Moore wants to be serious about responsibility, he should have a look at this report and the other report.
MS TUCKER (3.48): The operating loss is obviously a subject that every member of this place has to be concerned about. We have had a lot of debate about this already, but I am quite happy to raise the issues that we always raise in this debate once again. We have had a lot of debate about whether the loss is $600m or $450m over the next three years. I think we have to acknowledge that it is a bit pointless getting caught up in exactly what the figure is, because these figures are always rubbery. What the accrual system of accounting has highlighted is that we do have an unfunded superannuation debt and, even though it is unclear exactly what that debt is, it is of concern. Just because the superannuation debt has come down at the moment does not mean it will not go up again. The actuarial assessments are based on many variables. Our unfunded liability - on the last occasion I looked at it - had gone down $55m, but it could easily go up again. I do not think anyone here would disagree that there is a problem, but the debate must always be broadened.
The interesting thing about the introduction of accrual accounting is that it has highlighted the superannuation debt that we are accruing today but paying for tomorrow. For all Mrs Carnell's rhetoric about her excellent economic management, the fact that the operating loss did fall is more through good luck than good management. I am not debating the pros or cons of what she has done, but just putting on the table the fact that expenditure has not decreased that much. We have reduced the operating loss primarily through revised superannuation assessments - and, as I have explained already, that is a rather rubbery projection - and through increased revenue, especially some stamp duty increases.
Mrs Carnell seems to believe the problem can be solved through economic growth. I have my doubts about that. Economic growth would not solve the problem. The presumption that economic growth will bring in more revenue is unrealistic, in my view. Our total revenue from taxes is in the order of $500m. To tackle the problem - in the order of $150m - we would need to increase our revenue by 30 per cent. I believe we can save money through better management in some areas. The Social Policy Committee reports, for example, often highlighted the lack of coordination across departments. Management is often plagued by ad hoc crisis responses to problems. We had a number of examples. Recently highlighted again were the "adverse events" which are obviously costing us a huge amount of money in the hospital system. It is obviously worth while to look at how we can save not only that human cost but also the economic cost.
There are obviously some revenue raising ideas that we have raised, such as gambling taxes and the bed tax. Again, these are not in the order of magnitude of the problem. I guess we are all hoping that we will receive more money from the Commonwealth, but obviously we cannot count on that. Maybe what is more likely - and what I would like to see nationally - is a serious debate about revenue in this country and the need for a more equitable and environmentally responsible tax system. I share the views of someone who wrote something about the Labor Party in the Canberra Times today.