Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3047 ..
MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (4.01): First, let me say that I do think that the opposition did handle the budget debate this year very badly. I do not think that they really had their hearts and souls in it. I think that opinion is being confirmed today, because Mr Smyth belatedly apparently wants to have a rematch on the budget debate. I have to say that there was not much more in what he said today than in what he said previously.
I think it is important that we put the bottom line in perspective. Given that the gross revenue and gross expenditures of the territory are in the order of $21/4 billion to $21/2 billion in a given year-you can double that figure for the actual turnover-it does not take a great deal of change in some of the bottom lines to make a difference at the margin.
Mr Smyth should have stayed at school a little longer. To be using 1,900 per cent as a statistic because the bottom line was out by that percentage is probably one of the most spurious and puerile uses of a statistic. To say that the difference between $1 and $20 is 1,900 per cent and then to take that 1,900 per cent statistic and apply it across-the-board really does show a very basic ignorance. Or is Mr Smyth plain stupid? From the various issues that have come across this Assembly in recent times, Mr Brendan Smyth is either artful or plain stupid. He is telling me that I know nothing about budgeting. Several weeks ago, Mr Smyth did not know the difference between a budget and an appropriation. Mr Smyth involved himself this week in a claim that the Liberals had called for public education. Of course, that was debunked. It has been a very bad week for the opposition, I've got to say.
We even had today the discussion of affordable housing and how somehow the difference in the affordability of housing relates purely to stamp duty imposed by the ACT government. That is just nonsense. Anyone who would peddle that nonsense is really doing what the Liberals have done under Brendan Smyth. John Howard, at the national level, has dumbed down Australian politics by throwing in these little grenades or by pure dishonesty. Mr Smyth seems to be dumbing down ACT politics without trying, because we have had these simplistic statements that if a bottom line moves by several million dollars, we should take the percentage of what it was, what it is and what it was meant to be and draw all sorts of conclusions. That is just madness.
This sort of stupidity came up in the last sitting of the Assembly and I did table some numbers that showed the differences in original estimates and final results under previous governments. Let me give you just a couple of figures. The last complete year that the Liberal government was in power was 1999-2000. The estimated expenditure for the year in their budget was $1,786 million in the GGS, in the government sector. They were out, by the end of the year, by $98 million, a figure of the same magnitude as Mr Smyth spoke of today when he said that there is something wrong with the budgeting process and what I do because I was out by $115 million.
In 1999-2000, the Liberal government budgeted for a deficit of $63.7 million. That year the territory enjoyed a surplus of $81.3 million, a $145 million difference. Mr Smyth says that we do not know what we are doing. That is plainly stupid. Budgets are estimates. There will be changes. What is dangerous about this level of stupidity? Let us