Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 17 March 2005) . . Page.. 1195 ..
With that pattern of three years, you would probably say that we can keep doing this, and I am sure that there are people on the opposite side of the Assembly who firmly subscribe to the view that good times will keep rolling on. But I suspect, behind the scenes, that the Treasurer and his advisers are warning that we cannot rely on land sales, we cannot continue to get sources of income that we have counted on in the past, because they know that the economy is slowing down and they know they have taken very few precautions to protect our community from an overspending government and one that really has not protected itself against any sudden changes in the economy.
One has continually to go back to the advice provided by the Auditor-General. We have learnt here that the break-even budgets that have been a part of the pattern—in the words of the Auditor-General—“generate little capacity for capital expenditure and provide no real protection from negative fluctuations in revenue or expenditure or unforeseen adverse consequences of future events that may occur from time to time”. Those words of the Auditor-General, the arbiter in this case, are very clear. Economic management is not the strength of this territory government and it is time we examined that approach.
MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Business, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Sport Recreation, and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (4.20): I do not think it is all that bad a tactic at this time of the cycle for the opposition to get up and try to cut off the government at the pass in terms of what it might do with a budget and try to limit its options by making them the subject of debate before the budget comes down. In that regard, I have respect for Mr Mulcahy’s tactics.
You had me there for a while, Mr Mulcahy. I thought, “That’s not bad.” But then you came out and said that you had looked at the costings Mr Smyth put forward before the last election and have confidence in them. That was a giant step backwards, I have to tell you, because they were rubbish. They were not fully costed, they did not add up and they would have sent the territory absolutely broke.
The great concern is that Mr Smyth, who is over there now mumbling about it, possibly does not even know how bad those figures were when they came out. We did the spendometer but we gave up; it burst at the top. It was truly the most amateurish presentation I have ever seen. Even the physical presentation was appalling. Mr Mulcahy lost me a bit further when he used the phrase “drought-proof the economy”—a phrase which I think was invented in Mr Smyth’s office, which was never explained and which meant very little. It was a meaningless statement that had no bones. He did not say what it was about.
Mr Mulcahy made the claim that there were four years of warning by the opposition in relation to, I think it was, three years of profligate spending. That was not so at all. Of course there were occasions when the government might have been spending too much here or there. There were other utterances from the opposition at the time that the government should be spending more money here or there, that the government had all this extra money; it had surpluses, so why was it not spending it.
That demonstrated quite clearly, as we have seen, that there was no strategic approach in what the opposition said. It was, as we still see to this day, the convenient utterance of the moment. It did not fit into any discernible strategic plan that might have arisen out of