Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 666 ..
MS CARNELL (continuing):
transitional funding, we have passed that, and things will improve slightly in the future, or we hope they will. Currently, as far as our taxation regime is going, we are not far below the national average. There is not a huge amount that we can do there. There is still a bit, but not a huge amount. It comes back now to where we can find the savings.
Over the last couple of weeks I have put down a few issues that we have spoken about in this place. We have spoken about ACTION buses - something that Mr Smyth will know a lot about. When we were talking about ACTION buses, what did Mr Hargreaves say? He said that we should not save one more dollar. He said that we should maintain the level of expenditure at the current level for a few years to allow it to settle down. According to the Graham report and other reports that we have, we are spending far too much on ACTION buses in comparison to the same level of service being provided by another bus company, public or private. So there is an area of inefficiency that those opposite have said that we should not address.
We have heard in the last couple of days about superannuation funding. Those opposite have said that we should continue to go down the path of a superannuation scheme for new employees that is not totally funded. They are suggesting that we maintain a level of employer contribution significantly higher than other States in Australia, and significantly higher than the private sector. Fine, but how are we going to pay for it? They have indicated with regard to enterprise bargaining agreements that they will not be overly supportive of the Government if we take a hard line on anybody but the VMOs. VMOs are okay; but you certainly cannot touch the pay, terms, conditions or, for that matter, anything else in respect of our current employees. They have been less than supportive of any reductions that we might make in ACT Government staff, which represents something like 70 per cent of our whole budget.
What we have is a situation where Labor have said they do not want any cuts in health except for VMOs, and that is something like $12m of our whole budget, with a potential saving of, maybe, as Mr Moore said, $1m. They do not want any savings in education. They have indicated regularly that they think we are underfunded in the police area. They do not want us to change our staffing figures or our staffing levels. They do not want us to fix up our superannuation. They do not want us to fix up our public transport, and we are not allowed to sell anything. Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, tell me what they actually do think should be done, or what they would do if they were over this side. There is no talk about "Working Capital", and no talk about spending the cash off the balance sheet anymore, because they finally realise that is stupid.
If we are to address these issues we need to have an approach where we all accept the problem. Now, we have all accepted that. They have said they accept that there is a problem, but they will not come clean and say where they would make the savings. We are more than happy to have those discussions with the Labor Party. Of course, we would like to have some sort of approach for this budget that was agreed by the parties involved. I think this is a very real issue for this Assembly. Mr Stanhope said in his inaugural speech that there was going to be a different approach, a much more conciliatory approach, to this Assembly. A very conciliatory approach would be to talk to the Government about the areas where the Opposition think we should make the savings that they admit we have to make, but they have gone through every area of government expenditure and said, "We cannot make it there". That is true.