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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3679 ..

25B Repayment of Territory contributions to fund

(1) If the Territory has made a contribution to the fund that has not been repaid to the Territory in full and the Treasurer is satisfied the fund contains an amount (the surplus amount ) that is not needed to meet reasonably foreseeable claims against the fund, the Treasurer may in writing direct the manager to repay to the Territory so much of the Territory contribution as is not more than the surplus amount.

(2) On receiving a direction under subsection (1), the manager must pay to the Territory the amount stated in the direction.

When introducing the bill into the Assembly, Mr Humphries made the point that the bill also provides for amendments to the Workers Compensation Supplementation Fund Act 1980 to allow for the repayment of funding provided by the ACT government, once the fund exceeds an amount considered necessary for its ongoing viability, and clarification of government liability in relation to the fund.

In other words, while in his press release Mr Pratt describes the $30 million contribution as a gift from the ACT government, it was no such thing. ACT Treasury always intended to recover some or most of this contribution as and when the fund could afford it. I understand that it is in order for the fund to impose a levy of up to 10 per cent through a notifiable instrument, but I have been advised by officers in the Treasury that there are no immediate plans to do so. If it were to happen, it would be introduced following consultation with the reference group established for that purpose.

I have also been advised that a similar scheme run by the WA government has imposed a 5 per cent levy but is now likely to bring that down to 3 per cent, so I can only assume that the 10 per cent impost concerns raised by Mr Pratt are alarmist.

Finally, I note that the Chamber of Commerce has lent its arm to the situation. A close reading of the press release reminds us that the chamber has always argued that workers compensation costs in the ACT are too high, whatever the reality of the situation, that a public holiday for workers is unreasonable and that basic wages are always better to be kept as low as possible. It should not surprise us that they are concerned that the government may impose a levy on workers compensation premiums.

The chamber and Mr Pratt both need to recognise that some costs of the HIH collapse were always bound to be carried by business, but the arrangements put in place by the previous government and supported by this one seem focused more on easing the burden than making, as seems to be implied, a grab for cash.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections) (4.40): Mr Pratt's speech has to be the worst exhibition of position shifting I have heard in this place since I came here. I have only been here five years. Mr Pratt claimed today that he asked for information today. The trouble is that he shot off his mouth yesterday, to the point that he did a Chicken Little job. He went out and inveigled Mr Chris Peters, drawing him into this little nest, saying, "Tomorrow there will be a 10 per cent surcharge on business."

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