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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (3 May) . . Page.. 1463 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

on the launches or the press conferences or whatever that would go with, effectively, public-funded election campaigning."

There is so much in this budget, line by line, that you would say is a good thing. There is just so much of that. However, the piecemeal approach to delivery, the conscious running down of every dollar that might be available during an election campaign, which is so blatant and so cynical, does deserve a degree of condemnation.

MR RUGENDYKE (4.23): After looking at the budget papers on Tuesday afternoon I said that the government's budget screenplay had reeled from the self-proclaimed Full Monty to a spin-off of Brewster's Millions. Now that I have had further time to reflect, I have a more considered observation to make. It appears that the appropriate analogy rests on the theatre stage rather than the movie screen. In 1999 we had the full monty budget. Of course, this film featured the disco lyrics of Hot Chocolate: "I believe in miracles ... you sexy thing." At the time this was an appropriate line. Many of us thought that turning around the massive operating loss and getting the budget back into the black would be a miracle, and the former Chief Minister was talking up a future big budget surplus as a sexy thing.

At the conclusion of my budget reply that year I said, "Considering this budget has been coined the full monty by the government, I would like to know whether this means that Mr Humphries will get up on the table and perform that famous Hot Chocolate song in the chamber." This year it would be more fitting that he do a Shirley Bassey impersonation. I don't think anyone would argue that Hey Big Spender would be the request from the aptly named musical Sweet Charity.

Members are aware that I questioned Mr Humphries on the government's sudden shift in budget surplus policy yesterday, and in particular the forecast operating result for 2003-2004 being slashed by $53 million. In Mr Humphries' first budget last year the forward estimate for 2003-2004 was set at $66 million. That figure was consistent with the policy statement from the previous Chief Minister, Kate Carnell, who said that the government should have a surplus large enough to cover the capital works program and to guard against any unforeseen economic shocks. However, this week's figures saw the forecast operating result for 2003-04 reduced dramatically to $13 million as a result of the free-spending budget. My concern is that projects promised in the $214 million capital works program would be on the chopping block if the revised direction proved too skinny.

Last year Mr Humphries retained the policy of working towards larger operating profits, with $26 million set for the current financial year, $57 million for 2002-03 and $66 million for 2003-04. But there has been a clear change of direction in this budget with the forecast operating results being downgraded to $20 million in 2002-03, $13 million in 2003-04 and $11 million in 2004-05. The $11 million figure is certainly not consistent with the previous policy that was in place until this budget, when the government wanted money in the bank as a safeguard for the bad times. My main concern is that if the $11 million is too skinny, the raft of promises for spending on new projects may have to go by the wayside.

There is a range of good initiatives in this budget and these have been given wide attention. While I have made light of the Brewster's millions analogy, there is no question that this is an election budget, but no government would release an unfriendly

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