Page 626 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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Expenditure estimates

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (5.27): I noted today that the Treasurer, in his speech when introducing the second appropriation bill, said, adopting some bizarre twisted logic, that it proved that the additional expenditure that the Liberals had promised during the lead-up to the election was unaffordable. I fail to see how that works, given that the government have promised an additional swag of expenditure roughly equivalent to what we were promising.

I was also most interested to read in the December 2004 quarterly management report that the government has amended the estimate for the quantum of revenue expected to be raised in the financial year 2004-05. Rather than $2.592 billion, the government now estimates that $2.707 billion will be raised during this year, which is an increase of around $116 million. The revision is significant for two reasons. First, it shows how imprecise is the art of estimating the financial aggregates. There are so many variables that coming up with reasonable estimates in some situations can be quite difficult.

The Treasurer said in this place on Tuesday that a change of $100 million—I think he said it quite lightly, and I am surprised—in a budget of nearly $3 billion is largely insignificant. I am sure the voters do not think $100 million is insignificant. Of course, that does not excuse the ridiculous estimate that was included by the government in the 2004-05 ACT budget for changes in the value of the territory’s superannuation assets. For this government, this Treasurer, to suggest that the value of these assets would only increase by $61 million over 2004-05 was absolutely absurd, and, as the latest quarterly management report shows, the value of the superannuation asset has increased by more than $60 million already in the first half of the year.

The second reason why the revision to the revenue estimates is significant is that, as I have said, it accords precisely with the statements made by the Liberal Party in the lead-up to the 2004 ACT election. I am sure members will recall that the Liberal Party released a most detailed document prior to the election which costed all the commitments we made during the campaign and set out how we would fund those commitments. Indeed, amongst the funding information was a comprehensive analysis of how the Liberal Party assessed the prospects for additional unanticipated revenue to be generated for the ACT.

I remind members that in undertaking this analysis we were extremely conservative in our costing paper. We estimated additional unanticipated revenue for 2004-05, that is this year, at $20 million, for 2005-06 at $85 million, for 2006-07 at $85.2 million and for 2007-08 at $92.75 million. Were we conservative? I believe we were extremely conservative with our estimates, although I believe that is the prudent course to adopt.

We estimated an additional $20 million for the whole year and yet this government is already factoring in an increase of $116 million for the whole of this year. So, as far as I am concerned, the evidence from the latest management report simply confirms the validity of our approach to costing our policy commitments.

There is, however, perhaps a more sinister aspect in this matter. Some members may also recall that during last year’s election campaign the ACT Treasurer, Mr Quinlan, accused

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