Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3043 ..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
That the Assembly takes note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Pratt ) adjourned to the next sitting.
Tax burden-people of Canberra
Discussion of matter of public importance
MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth has written to me proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:
The high and rising tax burden which this government is placing on the people of Canberra.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (3.47): Mr Speaker, the Treasurer seemed to be taken completely by surprise by the $115 million budget surplus for the year ended 30 June 2003. He does not have the faintest notion of what is going on around him. It is one thing to be lazy-he is well known for that-but it is quite another to be caught napping, as the Treasurer has been on this occasion. Having forecast a surplus of almost $6 million at the start of the financial year, then $61 million only two months before the end of the year, he clearly has no idea of what is happening in the ACT economy.
The surplus of $115 million at 30 June this year totally changes the starting point for the current financial year. It shows that many of the assumptions underpinning the 2003-04 budget are wildly astray, as indeed were key assumptions on which the 2002-03 budget was based. Quite bluntly, the Treasurer got it wrong, seriously wrong-1,900 per cent wrong. With a track record like that, can you believe anything he says? With an error of 1,900 per cent, how can anyone, even his own Labor colleagues, have any confidence in his projections for the financial year 2003-04? How do we know that the current year's projected outcome will not also be in error by a factor of 1,900 per cent?
Mr Speaker, what we do know is that the revenue of the general government sector for 2002-03 was some $289 million more than the Treasurer said that it would be when he confidently brought down his budget for that year. Taxes, fees and fines were $91 million more than the Treasurer said they would be. Let's heed the ominous warnings that government spending was $143 million more than the Treasurer said it would be, which shows that Labor still does not know how to control its spending.
Indeed, it is sobering to note that if revenue had been what the Treasurer expected he would now be about 40 per cent back down the track to the $344 million deficit which was the hallmark of the previous Labor government but, because he inherited such a sound economy, he can bask in a $115 million surplus which was the outcome of sound foundations laid several years ago.
What the Treasurer has missed is that budget policy under the previous government was to make prudent surpluses and then return any excess above that level to the people who provided the funds in the first place. We always said that was better than simply piling up surpluses. That is a fundamental point of difference between Liberal and Labor. We are for lower taxes and Labor, as we are now seeing, is obviously for higher taxes. With taxes, fees and fines up $91 million more than the Treasurer said and total revenue up by