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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 720 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

to go with in order to find some dollars. Here is the logic, Mr Speaker: "The former government must have been thinking about making another offer to the nurses. What would it be? Oh, we will assume it was $5 million, so we will throw that in for the out years and that will help us get the figure down closer towards a deficit of $5 million." Sorry, Mr Speaker, it does not wash.

There are other figures in the report which I think need to be viewed with extreme scepticism. There are bids made by agencies which would never have been accepted by a government doing its job properly and saying, "No, if you have got pressure on your budget, you go away and manage it, or you go away and find savings elsewhere to pay for that deterioration in your bottom line." The job of government is to make sure agencies do not come with begging cups to Treasury all the time saying, "Give us money because we are under a bit of pressure." You do not do that, Mr Speaker, and Mr Quinlan will learn that fact.

Mr Speaker, there is a far more important point to make about the figures that Mr Quinlan has tabled. He points out that the figures that were tabled by the then government on 2 October were prepared by the ACT Treasury. Indeed, they were prepared by the ACT Treasury. The figures in the report are a revision of what the ACT Treasury tabled at that time. The question has to be asked: why did the Treasury of the territory produce figures which showed a surplus of $38 million when, according to Mr Quinlan, based on a consideration of the same figures, the amount should have been a loss of $5 million?

Mr Speaker, the government did not have then, and I do not believe has now, the power to roll into Treasury and say, "Look, I'd really rather like to have a surplus of $25 million this year, not the $10 million you told me I'm going to get, so fix it, will you? Just fiddle the figures to make sure we get a surplus of $25 million." You cannot do that. So you have to explain, Mr Quinlan, if you come into this place saying that there is a loss in these figures, why it is that the same honourable ladies and gentlemen who run our Treasury, the same honourable people who produced the figure showing a surplus of $38 million as of, I think, 2 October, suddenly for some reason have now revised their estimate down to a loss of $5 million.

Mr Treasurer, what are the factors that you introduced into that equation to produce that change of position? That I would like to hear, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker, I would like to consider this document at greater length-I can assure members on the other side of the house that it will be considered very carefully at much greater length-to see how much suspicion can fairly be levelled at this conveniently deteriorated financial position.

Mr Speaker, I will say simply this: a loss of $5 million for the ACT is a damn sight better than a loss of $344 million which, on the estimate of the ACT Auditor-General, was inherited by the former Liberal government from the Labor government of the day.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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