Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3246 ..
Mr Berry: No, we have not said anything.
Mr Stanhope: When did we say it?
MS CARNELL: Okay, that is fine. Mr Speaker, this is despite the glaring errors in the Australia Institute's analysis, such as the claim that the Government can take $180m per year in dividends out of ACTEW, or the $1 billion hole in their superannuation solution. This afternoon I want to throw the views of another independent authority into the debate, an authority who was not commissioned by either the Government or the Labor Party's backers; someone who everyone in this chamber would acknowledge is independent of either the Government or the Opposition. The person I refer to, Mr Speaker, is the Auditor-General. Everyone would have on their tables at the moment the latest Auditor-General's report.
The Auditor-General's report tabled this afternoon is somewhat timely. It deals with the Territory's operating loss and its financial position, and in that context it comments directly on the proposed sale of ACTEW. I would like to quote directly from the Auditor-General's report. It says:
The unfunded superannuation liabilities at 30 June 1998 were estimated to be $770m; this equates to around $7,700 for every household in the ACT ...
The Auditor-General goes through the options of dealing with the Territory's operating loss, namely, cutting costs, increasing taxes, borrowing and asset sales. I suggest that members might like to read pages 5, 6 and 7 of the report. Mr Speaker, with regard to cost cutting, the Auditor-General said this:
Past history does not provide much support for believing that reducing costs by reducing the quantity and/or quality of services currently enjoyed by the ACT community is likely to be a major contributor to converting the Territory's operating losses into surpluses.
With regard to tax increases, the Auditor-General says:
... the potential for increasing revenue through significantly increased charges to the general community does not seem to be a political reality unless there is a change in community attitudes.
Mr Speaker, we know that our levels of taxation are very similar to those over the border in New South Wales. With regard to borrowing, the Auditor-General said:
Meeting liabilities as they fall due by borrowing is simply eliminating one liability by creating another ... Borrowing only further defers the time when taxpayers will have to eventually meet the liabilities.
The Auditor-General goes on and speaks about the other option. He talked about cost cutting, tax increases and borrowing. Now he talks about asset sales, something that we should be very interested in during this debate. He said: