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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 668 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

This debate has been about the operating loss. What has been the main theme of the last couple of Carnell budgets but to fudge around the issue by selling off assets, by hitting ACTEW and by borrowing and thereby disguising the problem with the operating loss? There has not been a significant move on the operating loss in the last couple of budgets.

The Chief Minister is looking for good ideas. I do not know what else she could do to match selling the lampposts, but maybe we will see that in the budget. I think the Chief Minister's response in this debate today has been very self-serving and has not been focused on some of the avoidance of her Government in the last two budgets. It has not been there. The operating loss has been a problem that this Government has not attended to.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (4.40): I seek leave to speak again.

Leave granted.

MS CARNELL: Mr Wood just said that the Government had not addressed the operating loss. When we came to government it was $344m. At the end of the last budget it was down to $153m, and we believe we will come in this year in the same sort of vicinity. That seems to me to be a quite significant reduction in the operating loss. If those opposite had ever managed to come anywhere near that we would not be in the situation we are in now.

I would like to make a point about the $100m from ACTEW. Has that made a difference to ACTEW's profit? Has it made a difference to ACTEW's profit?

Mr Wood: No. Maybe its saleability, but - - -

MS CARNELL: The fact is no. If the Government can ask ACTEW for an extra $100m to help in operating the ACT, without affecting its bottom line, why was it not done years ago?

Mr Wood: It is a one-off.

MS CARNELL: That is true. It is a one-off, and that is exactly the point I am making. These sorts of one-off approaches are fine as one-off approaches, but they do not address the problem. I agree.

Mr Wood: That is what I said.

MS CARNELL: I agree absolutely. But what we have done over the last three years, as you can see from the graph, is actually reduce our outlays. But not enough. As Mr Humphries said, what has happened over the last few years is that we have messed around, I suppose, as the previous Government did, with the rats and mice, reorganising here and reorganising there; but a lot of that nip-and-tuck approach is over now. We have done it. Now come the really tough decisions. Now come the decisions on which we are going to need the support of those opposite. I am very pleased that Mr Wood has indicated that we will get it, and that the Auditor-General's report on preschools will be addressed very seriously by those opposite.

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