Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (9 March) . . Page.. 405 ..
MR SPEAKER: Before I call Mr Kaine, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of pupils from Kaleen Primary School. Welcome to your Assembly.
MR KAINE (11.44): Mr Speaker, I listened to the Chief Minister's speech for about 40 minutes and I must say that I was greatly disturbed at the end of it because, if that was a budget speech, it demonstrates that the Government has completely lost its way. It is totally bereft of ideas as to how to deal with the situation that it finds itself in because the Chief Minister outlined all the problems but gave not one single solution. For the Chief Minister to come forward with that sort of statement is a bit worrying. I think the timing was wrong because the ides of March is the 15th, not the 9th. I think she should note that very carefully. Her speech demonstrated that the Government has no notion of what to do to deal with the budgetary problem. She tends to obscure that under the cloak of involving the rest of us in the debate.
On that point, Mr Speaker, I have to support what the Leader of the Opposition said: Budgets are about implementing government policy, about implementing the things that they got themselves into government by promising. They are not about implementing opposition policies or policies put forward by the members of the crossbench, because it is not within our power to implement those, except to the extent that we can persuade the Government to do so. Anybody who has tried that knows how difficult it is because we are always told, "I am sorry, there is no money. We cannot implement any new policy initiatives because there is no money". So, the Government is obscuring its responsibility behind this debate.
Of course, the Chief Minister's attempt was deliberately aimed at seeking to make it sound perfectly reasonable that she should abdicate from her responsibilities as Treasurer. That is what this whole debate is about. It is not reasonable for her to attempt to do that. The Chief Minister argues that she is now listening, that she wants us to tell her what to do. I have said it before and I will say it again: If the Chief Minister is really interested in knowing what we on the crossbench and in the Opposition have to say about her budget, there needs to be a full-year program. Involve us in the preparation of the budget from the very moment that the budget that she is currently developing is on the table, involve us during the years 1999 and 2000 right from the outset, and weekly, in the development of the next year's budget. Then one could say that one has had an opportunity to make a reasonable input. But to invite us here, just a few short weeks before debate is to take place on her budget, and say, "Tell me what I should do", and to give us, as she did originally, 15 minutes to do it in, is quite bizarre. Even half an hour or an hour is not sufficient to do justice to this subject.
I must say, Mr Speaker, that I do not understand what is the Chief Minister's problem, because for the last 10 years of self-government the budgetary problem has remained the same. It has been a question of levels of expenditure that exceed our revenues and it is very difficult to reduce those levels of expenditure. There has been the problem of levels of revenue that are pretty much up against the ceiling, they are fixed, because they have been brought up pretty much in comparison with what is raised in taxes elsewhere in Australia and there is not much flexibility to increase them. There is the problem of a continuing operating deficit - currently, I am told, around $150m a year on the