Page 1321 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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I move:

That the report be noted.

MR MULCAHY: I would like to thank the members of the committee and the secretary and secretariat staff for the preparation of this report. I would also like to thank ministers and other members of the Assembly who attended hearings and those officials who attended as witnesses and observers. I understand it is something of a slight departure from custom in referring this bill to the public accounts committee, as opposed to a specially determined estimates committee. I understand this has not been the past practice, certainly in recent memory, but I think this process seemed to work quite well. If there were to be any comments or criticisms of this process, I suppose paucity of recommendations might be one that could be levelled in that we elected to simply settle with one recommendation of a yes or no. It could be suggested that based on the past estimates committee this is less than ideal. However, this was a prevailing view and it is the one before the Assembly today.

The bulk of attention in our deliberations focused on wage negotiations that contributed to somewhere around $50 million and therefore comprised a large proportion of the appropriations. But as the record and the report will show a number of other issues were canvassed including the matter of the coronial inquest and related costs associated there, matters dealing with the ACT health system and the issue of stress claims and other such issues. There was also a measure of interest in the future plans for Manuka Oval and the ongoing discussions about the level of activity supported at Manuka Oval. Lastly, and of great importance, there were discussions on the important function of child protection and measures in this regard.

They were the main elements that were canvassed by the committee and comprise our report. On a personal level, I was a little dismayed to hear from the Minister for Industrial Relations that she had failed to secure productivity trade offs, as a result of generous increases awarded in the public sector, and even more dismayed to discover that she had not even sought that. The minister made reference to the pressure being brought to bear on the ACT public sector by commonwealth public service wage increases. In terms of the committee, the view was acknowledged by all that there was pressure from the commonwealth public sector. From a personal perspective, I think little or no regard was given to the similar impacts of those rather generous decisions on the ACT private sector. As a consequence of those concerns, I have added additional comments to the report—they are attributed to me and are not those of the broader committee—strongly recommending that in future the ACT government should seek productivity improvements when providing improvements in employment conditions for the ACT public sector.

The clear message is that pay improvements in the public sector should be accompanied by productivity improvements if we are to overcome some of the service issues facing the territory. Mr Speaker, I would suggest that the solution to every problem is not always simply related to dollars spent. The remainder of the community seeks to see improvements, especially in productivity when increases are awarded. I think the ACT government should feel neither embarrassed nor intimidated by the union movement on this issue and should demonstrate a measure of courage on behalf of the taxpayer.

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