Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 28 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
"recommends that the Government develop strategies", "recommends that legislation be introduced", "recommends that the Assembly take note of the inherent risks", "believes that the sale of ACTEW should not proceed", and "recommends that the Australian Government Actuary be engaged to remodel all options". The committee has done everything but what it was asked to do; that is, produce a credible alternative to what the Government suggested.
The Government put in a submission. It was a document of more than 60 pages. It was a document of substance, substance that the committee simply chose to ignore. They chose to ignore it because that is the best way to deal with their answer. Their answer does not want to contain the truth. Let us look at what they say. In doing so, do the maths on their answer because the maths are quite spectacular. We take out the $300m to $500m repatriation. We still take the dividend, but we put it to superannuation. We still spend the dividend in the budget, so we have only spent it twice now. Then there is this extraordinary allegation that somehow the ACT Government derives a $9m tax benefit. So, we take $300m, we spend $40m twice, and we pick up this extra $9m that somehow, I think, suggests that ACTEW and the ACT Government are involved in tax avoidance.
At the same time, we do not mention how we pay the interest on the $300m - say, 5 per cent a year. I would like to know where the money comes from to cover that. We still get to balance the budget and it begins to look more and more like the sort of "Working Capital" Wayne's world of economics where you can find a few hollow logs, split them open, double-, triple- or quadruple-spend a few bits of the budget, and we all live happily ever after. Mr Moore spoke of optimism. It reminded him of Indiana Jones and that chalice - "Methinks you have made the wrong choice". That did not spring to mind for me. My memory is of Monty Python's Life of Brian and the words "Always look on the bright side of life".
We can all sit here and twiddle our thumbs, twist our heads and whistle because that is what this is: This is a Life of Brian committee report. This report has no foundation, no root in reality, because it does not answer what it was asked to do with special reference to any alternatives to the proposed one-off funding option. Their option is to take $300m, not pay the interest, double-spend the dividend, pick up an extra $9m in some sort of tax dividend and we will all live happily ever after.
Had the committee actually looked at what was asked of them instead of simply being used to pull down the sale of ACTEW, they would have looked at what the Government had suggested. If you look at the 60-page submission that the Government put in, you will find that it did look at options and it suggested the best path for us to follow and meet our responsibilities. Something that some of the so-called experts and commentators and probably even some of the members of this place have had trouble understanding is that, as well as the existing unfunded liabilities, total liabilities continue to grow every year. The point that we want to make to the members of the crossbenches, including Mr Rugendyke, who, I am sure, is listening to what we all have to say here, is that not only the existing unfunded liabilities but also the total liabilities that continue to increase every year have to be met by this Government.