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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2505 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

As I've said, we've now got a prison that apparently can be built because we've got an extra $50 million. We saw the withdrawal of the bushfire tax. That was $10 million. How accurate are the Treasurer's figures? Can you believe him? How sloppy has been the putting together of this budget and then the updating of it that, even before it was passed, fiscal initiatives were being withdrawn and then, the day after it was passed, we can afford a new prison?

Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I cannot believe that the Treasurer's estimates can be so wrong and this can be so unexpected. He was warned. I hope he answers my questions, because the rumours coming from the upper corridor certainly were that he knew before the budget was tabled and that officials had briefed him that the surplus was much stronger.

I asked questions in the estimates and I asked questions on notice as part of the estimates process. The answer that really amused me was the one to the question: "Has the surplus gone up?"The answer was: "It has not deteriorated."We've talked about being honest, open, transparent and accountable. That's not accepting scrutiny. "It has not deteriorated."Well, we all know it hasn't deteriorated.

The question is: when did he know? How can he say that, in keeping with their commitment to be honest, open, accountable and transparent, when members of the Assembly haven't been updated? It's a reasonable request in the budget phase to ask for this data; it's a recommendation of the Estimates Committee that that data be tabled. Now we've been forced to move a motion today, because of the accidental almost-tabling of a document which, we all know, is sitting in the tabling office.

Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I think you could accept that a budget might be a little bit out at the end of 12 months. That your estimates are so out less than 60 days after the budget has been tabled is quite extraordinary. I predict the degree it is out will cause considerable embarrassment to the Treasurer, because it will show that the work has not been done properly; that his estimates for the coming year are inaccurate; and that, instead of being in deficit next year, we'll be very, very strongly in surplus. The answer to that is sitting in that room, and I hope the Treasurer just ends the charades now and agrees that the document be tabled.


(Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (5.18): I do try in this place to avoid being offensive, and I will continue to do so, but I think you've got close to the border, Mr Smyth. There seems to be this passion for finding a conspiracy somewhere, and it does show, I think, an absence of a policy base for the opposition.

Mr Smyth, I think it was only yesterday, you demonstrated the most fundamental lack of understanding of the budget process. You didn't know the difference between the content of a budget and the content of an appropriation bill. Today you compound that fundamental lack of understanding by using the jail as an example of how the bottom line might have shifted-exhibiting again a fundamental lack of understanding of the difference between recurrent and capital expenditure.

I seek leave to table a brief document which I will discuss. I hope that it is distributed.

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