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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (17 November) . . Page.. 2580 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I certainly support the package and, I have to say, support the approach that the Special Premiers Conference unanimously took. I certainly hope that members of the Senate take note of the agreement between the Premiers and Chief Ministers of the States and Territories. Let us be fair, Mr Speaker: The Senate is the States' house. I present the following paper:

Outcome of the Special Premiers Conference - Agreement on principles for the reform of Commonwealth-State financial relations - ministerial statement, 17 November 1998.

I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MR QUINLAN (3.36): I shall be very brief, Mr Speaker. I have had a very quick look at the communique that came out and I am happy to - - -

Ms Carnell: We sent it to you.

MR QUINLAN: I had one before that, but not much before that. The Chief Minister has mentioned that we will be $20m better off, according to the figures. The joint communique and the outcome communique do not include figures relating to the ACT. I wonder whether they could be tabled. I have not seen any numbers that would confirm that we are going to be $20m better off. I am glad to hear that we are. If it is at all possible, I would like those estimates and numbers to be tabled for the benefit of all members of the Assembly. I do not wish to make any other particular comment, other than to say, "Good on you, Bob Carr". He was in the same situation as we are whereby we have been net losers on PAYE repatriation, and I am sure that I would have liked to have seen our Chief Minister backing him up a little more.

MR KAINE (3.38): Mr Speaker, I think that we would be remiss in this place if we did not note the fact that this agreement at the State, Territory and Commonwealth level is a milestone in the development of this country. For many years now, I guess for decades, the problem that was so quaintly described as vertical fiscal imbalance has been something that has plagued this country and every year we had the spectacle of Premiers and Chief Ministers fronting up and trying to persuade the Commonwealth to give back to them sufficient money to allow them to run their States and Territories. The situation has been that the Commonwealth has been the main tax collector and the States and Territories have been the main public money spenders, and there was an enormous imbalance in those two sets of activities.

The question of resolving this problem was first raised, to give him his due, by Bob Hawke in 1990. The first Premiers Conference that year was convened in Brisbane with the specific purpose of addressing this problem. It has taken seven years to reach the point where agreement has been reached between the States and the Territories on the one hand and the Commonwealth on the other as to how to remove this problem. I am hopeful that the tax reform package at the Federal level will go through without too much fiddling around the edges because the implementation of this agreement is dependent upon that.

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