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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1217 ..

Questions without notice

Commission of audit

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Treasurer, Mr Quinlan, concerning the independent assessment of the so-called commission of audit and Mr Paul Blessington. It concerns particularly the estimated return on investments that was calculated in the commission of audit. I am sure Mr Quinlan has read the Blessington report. He will know Mr Blessington's view, which is as follows:

The commission of audit had estimated a zero return for the year but kept the long-term estimate of a 5 per cent return. However, there is an inconsistency in this approach since, if the long-term return is 5 per cent and the revised result for 2001-02 is based on zero per cent, as per the commission's recommendation, future returns must be increased to maintain a long-term average return of 5 per cent. This has not been done.

Can you explain, minister, why you have adjusted the territory's predicted future in terms to achieve the stated target of 5 per cent? Is it because you had no faith in the zero per cent estimate in the commission of audit report being the likely outcome at the end of the year, or because you did not understand the implications of this year's return on the estimate for long-term figure?

MR QUINLAN: Probably more the latter than the former, I would have to say, Mr Humphries. I am getting Treasury officers to check that out. We are talking about return over a considerable period. There is a single figure percentage, with no decimal places-no indication that it pretends to be bindingly precise at an absolute 5 per cent.

It is possible that, this year, the overall return will be zero per cent. As you realise, with superannuation, we are talking about a very long period of time. I am not sure whether that change would have a material effect on the estimated future return through time. As far as I can divine-I am still getting advice on this startling stuff-it is not really material to the points which have been made.

MR HUMPHRIES: I have a supplementary question. Are you prepared to stake your reputation on the reliability of the so-called commission of audit?

MR QUINLAN: No. The commission of audit is a public document which is there for all to see-and it is there for Mr Blessington to see. It is there to be examined. Am I prepared to play the stupid game which seems to have infected question time, where you ask, "Are you prepared to stake your whole life on it?" You find a marginal, fractional, difference somewhere and we play "Ah, gotcha!" games. No. I am not prepared to play that.

Economic white paper

MS MacDONALD: My question is to the Deputy Chief Minister. Can the minister advise the Assembly why the government has decided to produce an economic white paper, and what the government is hoping to achieve with such a document?

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