Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 660 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
That draws, in a nutshell, what we have to do over this and the coming few budgets in the life of this Assembly. We have to learn to be clever about the way in which we address the Territory's problems, but also retain the approach that we are caring about the needs of this community, the needs of our Territory's underprivileged and those who have not the capacity to provide for themselves as well as others, as we construct those budgets and plan for the future. We need to be, simultaneously, a clever and caring capital city.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the budget is going to be the first test of that approach. There are areas where services need to expand, where we need to do more than we are doing at present, not merely because some other jurisdictions are improving their services in ways that citizens of the ACT expect us to improve them, but because we have to face up to the fact that our needs as a community change. Some things that we are doing at present simply do not work as well as they should. I will give one example within my portfolio. I concede that I do not think we are providing a particularly effective service for people who are victims of crime in this community. We have a number of facilities. We have a Victims of Crime Co-ordinator who does a sterling job. We have a criminal injuries compensation scheme which addresses the needs of a pretty small minority of those who are victims of crime, but we have a very large unmet need.
I want to work out a way in which we can be clever about the provision of those services in the future, in a way that is caring of the people who happen to be victims of crime in our community, and deliver through that device, through that approach, cost-effective services - services which perhaps even cost us less than they now cost us but which meet the needs of a larger number of people. Some would say that that sort of approach is not generally possible. Well, sometimes it is not, but sometimes it is. We have to find the way of being able to do that, because every year new demands for service come forward. We have to make assessments about how we address those problems when they do.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the operating loss of the Territory has, for the first time in the last couple of years, been clearly defined. We simply did not know the level of our real loss or our real operating deficit. We did not have that information. We have done a lot of work to restructure the finances of the Territory and to reveal that information for the first time. We have also placed Territory financing as much as possible on a purchaser-provider basis, so that we now understand what we as a community purchase for the money that we put into a particular area of government. We have the tools now available to us to start to develop ways of addressing that operating loss. If we do not use those tools that are clearly before us we have wasted an opportunity and we have failed to address the real issues before us.
Mr Osborne made the point that we really do have an opportunity here, based on the Territory's low level of debt at self-government. Even with $150m debt, we are probably better off than most other jurisdictions. We retain a AAA credit rating because of the work of the past, but we must not let slip from our grasp the opportunity before us now to face up to that remaining $150m. That is the commitment that this Government makes - to deal with that issue very firmly over the coming few budgets.