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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1239 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

disappear, because the territory will have either a surplus of some sort, or a deficit. Some might say this is just a game played between the two major parties. In fact, Mr Quinlan described it as a silly game, and he may well think that.

If it is just a case of determining what opprobrium can be heaped on the shoulders of the former government-whether they can get payback for the $344 million tag which was attached to the Labor Party in opposition-it is indeed a matter of a game. It certainly is, and that is a matter which Mr Quinlan and I will, no doubt, bat backwards and forwards for some time to come.

However, a more important issue underlies this debate. That is whether or not the government will use the scenario placed before both the public and this Assembly of a budgetary difficult position for framing its 2002-03 budget. With that expectation, the budget could be predicted to cut expenditure to the territory and increase taxes.

Mr Speaker, that is no game. That is a serious basis on which the quality of life of the citizens of this territory can be adversely affected if the government chooses to put forward a scenario which it decides, for its own political purposes, suits its aims but which comes at a cost to the quality of life of citizens of the territory, who are affected by budget cuts or by increases in taxation.

The territory's budget is in good shape. It is in good shape compared with any other state or territory in the nation. By all reports, it is in good shape compared with the Commonwealth budget. It is certainly in good shape compared with the state of the budget six or seven years ago.

The budget is in good shape because there have been a lot of difficult decisions made in the past seven years. If you doubt me, have a look at the many press releases put out by the Labor Party over that period of time about just how bad, difficult and painful were the decisions made by the then government.

Since the now notorious commission of audit report was released about two months ago, a number of documents have been put on the table which cast serious aspersions on the credibility of that document. The Treasurer tabled the document on a Thursday afternoon-at the end of a sitting week. Mr Quinlan put it on the table with what I thought was some meekness, with an almost apologetic tone in his voice. There appeared to be a lack of conviction in the way he put that document forward for the edification of this place. With the subsequent tabling of other documents, that is hardly surprising.

The Auditor-General was the first cab off the rank. The Auditor-General found that there was a series of mathematical errors in the document released. Admittedly, that did not alter the bottom line, but it cast some doubts about the accuracy of the method used to put it together. Then, just last week, Access Economics tabled a view about the ACT budget in its Budget Monitor for the states and territories. This document must have been very disappointing to the ACT government. I will quote a little bit from it. It says:

The Government has appointed a Commission of Audit to draw a 'line in the sand'. Its initial report on the state of the Territory's finances at the change of government last year does not reveal much to be concerned about.

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