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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1470 ..

Mr Kaine: I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. You only five minutes ago exhorted people to hear the Leader of the Opposition in peace and quiet. Will you put that rule into effect?

MR SPEAKER: I uphold the point of order.

MR STANHOPE: There are, of course, shades of John Howard in Mrs Carnell's attitude to public sector job cuts. Canberra will recall 1996, when the Prime Minister pledged only 2,500 jobs would go from the Commonwealth Public Service. The number nationwide is now 97,000, and the ACT has taken a disproportionate blow from the axe. Was Mrs Carnell, when she made her pre-election statements, being crass and insensitive, or was it, like an echo of her mentor, John Howard, somewhat more disingenuous? Perhaps, Mr Speaker, that is enough for the time being on the Chief Minister's newfound open and transparent approach to government.

The Chief Minister makes much of her budget's march towards the elimination of the ACT's operating loss within two years - an entirely praiseworthy aim, by the way. In the same breath, however, she also makes much of the legacy she says she inherited from Labor. Let us put things in perspective. For the period in which Labor was in government, Commonwealth general purpose funding reduced by 46 per cent, or some $270m, which of course posed an enormous adjustment. Labor addressed the task through revenue and expenditure measures and in fact projected that the budget would move into surplus in 1995-96 with, at the same time, an improvement in the Territory's equity position.

Of course, Labor's was a cash budget. Mrs Carnell's figure - a largely fictitious figure - comes from a notional, accrual-based budget. Even if you accept the fictitious figure, the reduction in it has been largely due to windfall gains - for example, a downward revaluation of the superannuation liability and, more recently, an increase of $57.5m in the Commonwealth's general purpose funding, up 18 per cent, and a 14 per cent boost to total Commonwealth funding, taking it to $85m.

That boost in Commonwealth funding is certainly not insignificant, and the Chief Minister has been quick to claim it as the result of her tough bargaining, backed by the tireless and dedicated work of her officials. That, of course, is not the full story, but I am prepared to acknowledge the hard work which the many dedicated public servants - those still with jobs - undertake in Canberra. In this regard it is appropriate to publicly acknowledge the major success achieved by the former head of the Chief Minister's Department, Mr Alan Thompson, in achieving the increased funding.

The Government's own budget papers of last year reveal the more credible reason. Referring to the increase in general revenue grants relativities in respect of the Territory, Budget Paper No. 3 reports:

The increase in the relativity has been primarily caused by a decline in the ACT's capacity to raise own source revenue ... In particular, the ACT's capacity to raise stamp duty on conveyances decreased because of a decline in ACT property values and a reduction in property sales.

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