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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 575 ..

Ms Carnell (continuing):

(i) the level of operating loss which the 1999-2000 budget should incur. -

and on the amendment moved by Mr Stanhope:

Omit paragraph 2(a), substitute the following paragraph:

(a) "the responsibility of the Executive to govern the ACT as defined in Part V of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 and the responsibility of the Assembly to hold the Executive accountable." -

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (12.04): Mr Speaker, I resume the debate which we commenced on Tuesday. A number of members spoke during the debate on Tuesday about their views on this process, as well as the content of the motion itself. The motion before the Assembly is one that deals with the appropriateness of certain criteria being considered and debated by all the parties and members of the Assembly as we come to put together a budget. I think it was Mr Rugendyke who made the point in that debate that this is not just about the 1999-2000 budget; this is about budget processes, about a level of input and involvement. He made the point in that debate that it is impossible in the timeframe provided to sit around in this place and construct a budget between us; that is obviously out of the question. But, Mr Speaker, what is possible and I think what we should attempt to grasp, if not on this occasion then on future occasions if we repeat this exercise, is some endeavour towards coming to grips with the fundamental issues that underscore the pressures on the ACT budget.

The Chief Minister in her presentation of this motion spoke at length about what those budget pressures were. She made considerable reference to a whole series of pressures in different areas. The Leader of the Opposition in responding to that speech made the point that there was no particular value added to the exercise by repeating or listing those pressures on the ACT budget. I have to say that I think that that is simply a misconception of the way we stand at the moment. One problem, a very serious budgetary problem, that we have at the present time, one which every government that has sat on the treasury bench in the last 10 years has had to deal with, is making people, the community, aware of the pressures facing the community and the government of what has been over most of those 10 years a deteriorating budgetary position. It has been deteriorating because, during that time, our single largest source of revenue - that is, the Commonwealth grants which are made, both tied and untied, to all the States and Territories and which come to the ACT - has been shrinking at a quite alarming rate.

Our financing from the Commonwealth has reduced by approximately 50 per cent since self-government 10 years ago - 50 per cent. That is a very serious reduction in outlays. It represents a huge reduction in territorial capacity to spend and it has exacerbated the very sorts of budgetary pressures that the Chief Minister referred to in her presentation speech. That is not a side issue. That is a central issue in this exercise, one which we simply have to come to grips with and we need to talk about in this place and outside to make clear to the community that if we are to sustain the standard of living that we enjoy at the

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