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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1716 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

On 20 May East Timor will become the newest member of the world's family of nations. The East Timorese people have inherited a war-torn and extremely poor country, but catastrophe also offers opportunity. The East Timorese people can now realise their full potential, and I on behalf of all Canberrans wish them the very best as they assume control over their future.

Sitting suspended from 12.32 to 2.30 pm.

Questions without notice

ACT budget

MR HUMPHRIES: My question is directed to Mr Quinlan, the Treasurer. On 2CN news this morning, Treasurer, you were quoted as saying,

In the context of a budget that turns over $2.3, $2.4 billion, either way it's pretty close to zero. Now I know there's a psychological point of zero-surplus or deficit-but that's about where we are now. I hope we do recover. I need the money next year.

On 14 April this year, when you were still arguing that the ACT was in deficit this year, you stated in the Canberra Times that the so-called commission of audit projected a $5 million operating loss, which you said was due to the "colossal financial mismanagement of the Canberra Liberals". Yet, on 21 March this year, you outlined the fiscal policy of the Stanhope government as follows: "I have it in mind that the ACT Budget will be in surplus over a three- or four-year period . . . [if there is] a $1 surplus in four years, I will be happy."

Treasurer, do you acknowledge a certain inconsistency in these statements? Why is a $5 million loss-in your words "pretty close to zero"-evidence of colossal financial mismanagement, but a net $1 surplus over four years, also "pretty close to zero", responsible budgeting?

MR QUINLAN: Actually, mainly because you have never had it so good. I am not sure that I used the term "colossal financial mismanagement". Did I use "colossal financial mismanagement"?

Mr Humphries: I am afraid you did.

MR QUINLAN: I must have been wound up that day. I do not usually use such terms. The point I have made is that you set out a year ago with a budget in what was probably the best of times for the territory so far, in terms of economic activity and revenue flowing in. At 30 October, we measured that and thought that there was something in the order of a $5 million deficit. After all the argy-bargy, I think we have come to agree that the final tally is going to be decided on the last day of the year.

The sense of it is that you have actually lost, over the current financial year and in terms of investment, about $63 million out of the budget. I do not think that actually losing that money in investments is your fault, because most superannuation funds are losing money this year.

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