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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 1926 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Mr Speaker, the committee was to examine the Appropriation Bill and the budget for 1999-2000. A budget is a financial plan of a government and not an articulation of its social plan. I find it surprising that the committee would show so much concern that the 1999-2000 budget papers place an emphasis on the budget. It should be no surprise to the committee that the information presented in the budget papers, or that provided to the committee, is predominantly financial in nature.

Mr Speaker, it is disappointing that there is no acceptance of the significant achievements in improving the Territory's financial position and the commitments towards, and achievement of, a healthier social environment as a result of the Government's management. Mr Speaker, for the first, all the information was provided to the committee. For the second, the committee did not need to look very far. Mr Speaker, in 1995 we made a commitment to eliminate the operating loss of the Territory and get the Territory's financial affairs in order. This budget delivers on that commitment four years ahead of schedule. Mr Speaker, this budget more than halves the estimated operating loss for 1998-99 of $150m - to $63.7m. It also reduces the operating loss to one-fifth of the loss of 1995-96 and lays the groundwork for eliminating the operating loss in 2000-01. For 2000-01 the forecast is a surplus of $2.2m. Mr Speaker, in 1995-96, when we came to government the operating loss was $344m. There has now been a turnaround of almost $350m in the operating result.

In achieving this turnaround and in delivering its commitment the Government has not lost sight of the need for improved social and community outcomes. In fact, the Government has sought to carefully balance its approach to realising its goals for encouraging a clever, caring community while at the same time striving to deliver the services that Canberrans need in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. Mr Speaker, the budget targets additional resources to improve many of the services that are essential to the goal of being a clever, caring community. I am sure that the committee is aware that the budget provides additional resources and support for Canberra's school and college students, for Canberrans needing medical treatment, for people with disabilities and for increased protection for children who are at risk. The budget recognises the need for greater effort to improve our corrective services, our public transport system, our public housing and our city's general appearance. This budget has also provided funding to modernise the Government's information systems so that it can deliver services quickly, conveniently, accurately and more efficiently.

Mr Speaker, the Government's budget approach has continued to be based upon expenditure constraint; modest revenue growth from an increasing base; supporting and strengthening the economic base, where appropriate; and efficient and effective delivery of services to the community. The extent to which this approach has delivered positive economic and financial outcomes can be judged by the following: Unemployment in the ACT is now 6.2 per cent, an historically low level; we have now enjoyed nine quarters of economic growth - nine quarters; the ACT's budget is heading towards a surplus and we are set to achieve a turnaround of $350m in the operating result next year; and we have a AAA credit rating, the highest available. Mr Speaker, that sounds like a pretty good outcome, but it was very hard to find mention of it in the Estimates Committee report.

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