Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1625 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Minister, do you stand by the methodology used by the commission of audit of taking a snapshot of the cash position on returns on investments on 31 October, given that the ACT now has an accrual accounting system, and that October 31 is not normally a date which is used as part of the territory's reporting on finances?
MR QUINLAN: I think the question swings on what is a normal date for accrual accounting. I have to say any date is quite acceptable for accrual accounting. If, for example, Mr Humphries, you were going to buy a business, and you were going to take that over on say 31 October, I reckon you would be at least half smart to get the books done and the valuation of the business done at say 31 October. I reckon that would be-
Mr Humphries: If I was buying it six months later I would do it six months later, wouldn't I?
MR QUINLAN: But the whole point is that the government changed in October. I don't know what possessed the Canberra Times to pick up that line which I think was part of your consultant's criticism-I think the only substantial criticism, at that-of the commission of audit. So we have got to the point where you are saying the government changed hands-you might have noticed that, too-but you should not measure the state of affairs at the change of hands. That just seems to me to devolve to an absurdity.
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Are you concerned, minister, that Access Economics, Mr Blessington, the HIA and the Canberra Times have all explicitly or implicitly rejected the findings of the commission of audit and that no independent authority has explicitly or implicitly supported it, except, of course, for the commission itself?
MR QUINLAN: Yes, I certainly am. I have stood in this place before and said that the Canberra Times has actually regurgitated one-liners that you have put out over the years which it did not but should have researched. I am concerned that they just picked up on that line and said, "Oh, that sounds reasonable. We'll have that."
I am concerned that the Access Economics summary-and I presume that you accept the Access Economics summary-is done on the GFS system, which takes no great account of long-term liabilities, unless you look at the net borrowing. What the Access Economics monitor included was the measure of the underlying cash surplus. It measured operating deficits-it put you down as a deficit, by the by-and then it ignored the third critical measure of those three. So you actually get a picture using the government financial statistics method, which is a method employed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics-a set of numbers collected.
So I am concerned that, in fact, when we have got a superannuation liability-something that was the subject of so much debate during the course of the last Assembly; it was the reason that you wanted to sell off Actew in total, and it was the subject of further debate and an inquiry that I just happened to chair-you and others are saying virtually by dint of the GFS assessment everything is okay. Is it okay or is it not in terms of the superannuation liability? Is it okay to ignore the very, very substantial and growing superannuation liability? Let me tell you that four years ago it was the whole reason, it was the whole centre of debate for six months. So, yes, Mr Humphries, I am very concerned.