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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 123 ..

MR QUINLAN: I ask a supplementary question. Treasurer, each year these days our bottom line in flattered by an amortisation of superannuation review figures. In your correspondence of 7 December to the Select Committee on Estimates you said that $25.797 million is included on the positive side of our budget. It amounts to absolutely no value. It is in fact the correction of past deficit overstatements, something with which you are familiar.

Given that our figures are inflated by this number which implies no value, are we not technically in deficit until we reach $26 million? I notice that you are predicting a surplus of $13 million next year. Are we not predicting an actual deficit for this year and next year? This $26 million is purely a paper figure. There is no value to it.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Quinlan continues to say that he is not satisfied with the way in which the government uses particular accounting treatments.

Mr Stanhope: Just be consistent.

MR HUMPHRIES: We are being consistent, Mr Stanhope, because in these projections we are subject to the overview of the Auditor-General. Mr Quinlan, you know perfectly well that the Auditor from time to time agrees to a change in accounting treatments. He does so invariably because he believes that a new accounting treatment gives a more accurate picture of what is taking place in the ACT.

Let me take up Mr Quinlan's suggestion. Let us reject the accounting treatment which allows us to treat the superannuation review figures in that way. What would happen is that the Auditor-General would, I believe, qualify the ACT's accounts on the basis that we were not using a contemporary accounting treatment with respect to our figures. You might not think that is the case, but I know he would, because he said to us, "This is the treatment you should use for your accounting figures."

I ask what Mr Quinlan would say if we put out an end-of-year report which said, "Get nicked, Auditor-General. We are not following your accounting. We have our own figures here." What would you be saying in a press release? You would be saying, "Government fudges figure. Government abandons Auditor-General's input. Government fails to live up to its expectation. More conflict between the government and the Auditor-General."

I do not mind copping it sweet if I play fast and loose with the accounting treatments which have been laid down by the Auditor-General for this place. But when I am complying with those treatments I think I should get the benefit of the doubt and I should be allowed to be able to put those figures on the table in the confidence that, among others, the Auditor-General has sanctioned that treatment of the government's accounting. What basis is there for us to produce our figures, other than the basis the Auditor-General says is the basis for treating particular accounting factors in our budget? What alternative is there?

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