Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1722 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Some people-just a few-might say, "It's okay this year because the Treasurer has been bailed out by a surge in cash."That is the problem. The problem is that this government does not have a plan for the future fiscal needs of the territory. I would have expected their budget to be a blueprint for the future. I would have expected a budget that was drought-proofing for the future.
The budget papers clearly state that the government is expecting significantly less revenue in the 2003-2004 financial year. Budget paper 2 says at page 5 that revenue is expected to be down by $130 million, 5 per cent on the estimated outcome for the 2002-2003 year. As it stands, you would have to ask: if this is what we get in the good times, what will happen in the bad times?
Mr Speaker, in promoting the budget, the government has stated that there are 115 initiatives worth $35 million in recurrent items and $12 million in capital items. I have not included the bushfire initiatives in this tally. I will go into the bushfire component later in the speech.
The initiatives of the budget are an example of the malaise that affects the budget as a whole, and indeed also the government. The Treasurer appears happy to live with the budget being tagged bland but safe. I argue that it is barely bland and definitely not safe.
When it comes to the non-bushfire initiatives the budget does not even meet the description of bland. One can ask: when is an initiative not an initiative? The answer to this question is: when you are the current Labor government and you want to find a filler for budget paper 3. Labor claims there are 115 initiatives-in their conclusion to budget paper 1.
These claimed initiatives are in fact a range of initiatives from previous financial years; a range of ongoing initiatives from previous governments; a range of Commonwealth initiatives and a range of technical departmental processes or standard recurrent expenses. One is a personal initiative of John Howard; a range was taken from the opposition; some are the initiatives of community groups and others are necessary responses to the bushfires. The reality is that this government is bereft of any initiative.
For those who have not bothered to check the dictionary, an initiative is the first step, the origination-to be the first to take action without being prompted by others. Mr Speaker, this government is bereft of any initiative, but they do have fillers.
So we see that one of the loudest trumpets of the budget-the initiatives-was really the political equivalent an Aero bar. It is the bubbles of nothing that makes it seem like it is something. In the light of these Aero-bar initiatives, I have to ask again: how can so little cost us, as a community, so much?
It is an important part of the opposition's right of reply to post their own analysis of the broader economic assumptions in the budget. All too often, we tend to take the difficult bits of the budget papers as gospel. In some cases, my response contains elements of eternal economic arguments; in others I think the Treasurer is wrong, and that his use of incorrect assumptions has led him to wrong policy conclusions, especially on the bushfire tax.