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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1948 ..

MS CARNELL: It would be a surprise if you did. I have a very brief statement to make, Mr Speaker. I think I have been very good. Having listened to a lot of the speeches today, yesterday and the day before, Mr Speaker, I suppose the thing that becomes most obvious in this education debate is that those opposite are not interested in attempting to make the central office more efficient or to bring down some of the costs of administration in education so that we can spend the money on educating our kids. Those opposite, and Kerrie Tucker as well, have not supported virtually any of the measures in this budget. Well, they have supported a couple, but virtually none of the revenue measures. It seems also that those opposite have opposed almost all of the expenditure reduction methods. They have suggested that there should not be any reduction in staff in the Public Service, no new revenue, and no expenditure cuts, yet at the same time Mr Berry managed to say earlier today that this approach should not end up adding to the operating loss. Now, Mr Speaker, I would like to know how.

I would like Mr Quinlan or Mr Kaine, who have some experience in this area, to tell me how you can have no new revenue measures, oppose almost all of the expenditure cuts, have no cuts in staff in the Public Service, and not end up adding to the operating loss, particularly as those opposite have suggested that we should spend more money on ACTION buses, that we should have 50 new nurses - that is about $3m - that we should make sure we address the issues of bypass at the hospital, and that we need more beds. The list goes on, Mr Speaker. So, lots of new expenditure, no reductions, no new revenue, but no increase in the operating loss, according to Mr Berry, or not much. Only a little one maybe. Mr Speaker, Houdini would be proud of that sort of approach. It would require magic, and I have to say that magic rarely happens, it seems to me, with regard to budgets.

Mr Speaker, there seemed to be a lack of understanding of the difference between debt and operating loss. This Government believes that a level of debt is appropriate in any budget and that a manageable debt is quite a reasonable approach. We have no problems with borrowing, as in the InTACT area, for things that will produce a return to government over time. The problem is an operating loss that is ongoing. If we continue to spend more than we make, in the end all that can possibly happen is ongoing borrowings - borrowings that we cannot afford to pay back because they are not for things that will produce either revenue or efficiencies in the longer term. Alternatively, they would mean running down our assets base. Those in this Assembly who have even a basic knowledge of expenditure or of budgets will understand that.

The role of the Government, as some people, like Mr Rugendyke, have said, is to bring down a budget. It is to attempt, even against all odds at times, to do the right thing in terms of financial management and managing our operating loss for the people of the ACT. Let us be fair; that is what we were elected to do. Mr Speaker, that is what we have attempted to do.

I would like to finish by making the point that all on this side of the house negotiate regularly with Mr Rugendyke and Mr Osborne. I have to say that they regularly convince the Government to move in various areas. I would like to put on record that, with regard to the Institute of the Arts funding, it has been Mr Rugendyke's pressuring that has ensured that the Institute of the Arts will have ongoing funding from the ACT in outyears.

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