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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1696 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

increase in GST revenue this year is $50.5 million. In addition, the ACT receives $22.8 million in transitional funding in the early years of GST revenue to bring the ACT's total to the guaranteed minimum amount of $609.7 million.

On top of this, the ACT receives a budget balancing windfall of $10.7 million as an out-of-the-blue, catch-up payment to compensate for a previous underpayment of the budget balancing assistance scheme. I wish they had discovered it when we were in government. Nonetheless, there it is, and it is significant. It brings a total GST revenue flow of $620.4 million to the ACT economy in the 2002-03 financial year.

As I understand it, that does not yet make us GST positive. It does not mean that the amount we are getting from the GST exceeds the amount we were getting under the old arrangements. But I think it suggests that the ACT is rapidly approaching the point where we will be GST positive. What that means is that this territory, like ultimately every other state and territory in Australia, will receive significant additional amounts of money to expend on important projects. As I recall it, within about seven years revenue in the ACT will amount to something like $100 million extra. On these figures, it may be much more than that, and possibly sooner than the expected GST positive date of 2004-05.

It is important to make that point, because a common refrain in this Assembly in the last 13 years, particularly in the first six or seven years of self-government, when the federal government was reducing payments to the territory as we transitioned to a full, self-governing status, has been that there has not been the money to do the things we want to do as a community; that there has not been the growth funding which is essential to address long-term, serious community problems in health, education, community safety, public transport, and so on.

That money is now within sight. That money is going to come to this territory, and it is going to come sooner than was previously expected, on the basis of the figures in this year's federal budget. That makes the outlook for this territory, on the basis of the new tax system, very bright indeed.

The federal government's recent budgets have contributed to the territory's strength, they have helped keep our economy growing, and they have created a national environment in which the ACT can capitalise on a whole range of opportunities in the next year or two.

I am disappointed of course that this year's budget, the 2001-02 federal budget, is in deficit, even though it is expected to bounce back to a small surplus in 2002-03. Despite the many things the ACT Treasurer has had to say about deficits and surpluses in recent years, he has not criticised the federal government budget for being in deficit. I listened carefully to his remarks this morning. There was not one word about the federal government budget being in deficit.

That is strange, because at the breakfast I was at yesterday Mark Latham had a great deal to say about that. I have heard Simon Crean talk about that. I have heard Bob McMullan talk about that. So the Labor Party is well aware of the fact that the federal budget is in deficit this year. There was no mention of that fact today. I wonder why.

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