Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2321 ..
We are now looking at the increased costs of water purification, which is another consequence of the bushfire that was not factored into the budget. This is dealt with by Actew, but Actew is us, basically, and it will have impacts on the dividends.
I also raised with the Treasurer the notion of borrowing for public and affordable housing, perhaps by issue of bonds. I also asked him to explore investing some of the territory's superannuation funds in housing. I still have not got a considered response to that. Housing is such a critical social need in our community that I do not think it is a responsible government that just says, for the sake of it, that it won't investigate these different approaches when unmet need and social liability are accruing.
Responsible financial management requires that you focus on more than merely holding the line. Social and environmental benefits, as well as costs, need to be factored into the financial management formula. If we get that wrong, it will come back to bite the bottom line.
MS DUNDAS(5.10): The lead-up to this budget was marked by dire predictions from the Treasurer and the Chief Minister about the state of the ACT budget bottom line, due to the cost of the January bushfires. Some mention was also made of reduced investment returns from the troubled stock market. The fires became a default excuse for refusal to commit in many areas of investment that were urgently needed to secure the future of the ACT community.
What became apparent in the space of a few months was that the revenue projections from stamp duty and land sales were grossly underestimated. We have already seen the bushfire levy scrapped because the additional revenue was not required to balance the budget. What we have not yet seen is acknowledgment by the government that they would re-appraise the budget submissions they rejected to see where the surplus revenue should go.
I have previously mentioned that the community sector did not do well out of last year's budget, and I hope we will soon see a supplementary appropriation bill to allocate a chunk of the surplus revenue to restoring services in the community sector. But we need the information from the Treasurer about just how much money we will have at the end of the financial year and the impact that has on the 2003-04 budget. Then we can have the discussion about other initiatives that would benefit from resources, as we are continuing to do today.
There are also some welcome initiatives under the banner of ACT Treasury, as well as some glaring omissions. One of the stated highlights of the Treasury budget line is supposed to be the implementation of the government's strategy to provide accessible and affordable insurance for community and sporting organisations and small businesses.
However, I am hearing that a number of community organisations missed out on help to meet increased insurance premiums. This effectively means that services to the community will drop in the near future if they have not already dropped. It was up to the Treasurer to find practical solutions for our insurance crisis, but unfortunately the response appears to have been quite patchy.