Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1247 ..
MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.20): Mr Deputy Speaker, this debate is a useful one, in that it gives the government the opportunity to highlight some of the circumstances in which the previous government has left this government.
Contrary to the assertions of the Leader of the Opposition, it is very clear that there are a whole range of dilemmas left by the previous government which mean that this year's budget is in a very difficult position. This is not the result of commitments this government made before the election, but the result of liabilities left by the previous government which they conveniently chose to ignore, so as to make their own budget look healthier and more credible.
Let us go through a few of these. There is one I would like to deal with in some detail, but let us look at some of these leftover liabilities. Some of the more immediate ones include a commitment to a medical school. The previous government made a commitment to the Australian National University for a medical school. But did they put any money in the budget to fund the school? No, they did not-none whatsoever. They said, "Yes, a medical school is a great idea-we will help you build one," but there was no commitment to fund it. That is liability number one from Gary Humphries.
Liability number two is additional capital requirements from TransACT. Again, this is something they failed to take account of in their budget.
Then there were the failed business activities of the previous government. There was the Totalcare quarry, which has cost taxpayers millions of dollars. There were losses on the V8 Supercar race, going back two years, which had not been taken account of in the budget. That is money this government had to find, upon its election in October last year. There was a range of other things, including the unresolved and morale-sapping nurses dispute, and the costs associated with that.
There is one particular item to which, in this debate, I want to draw attention. This is the complete failure by those opposite to take into account the proper and full cost of paying decent wages to ACT public servants.
In 1996, the previous government embarked on its first round of enterprise bargaining. In that round, the government made it clear that any pay increases would be met from within individual agency budget allocations. This meant that if ACT government employees wanted a pay rise their agencies would have to take a funding cut. As a result, they brought themselves into an aggressive industrial dispute which created a destructive atmosphere. In fact, they invoked an eight-month dispute which involved significant industrial action. That resulted in a deal for a 10 per cent wage increase to be paid over a duration of 30 months.
Those negotiations also attempted to close-off the CSS and PSS superannuation schemes for new entrants to the ACT public service. Had this arrangement proceeded, it would have effectively closed-off the CSS and PSS schemes for new starters in the ACT government service. That is the history with their first round of bargaining.