Page 1371 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005
forecast a surplus to this budget to be in the area of $7.9 million. Indeed, Mr Quinlan proudly announced in 2004:
This government has cemented its credentials in financial and economic management. We have proven the doomsayers completely wrong.
It now appears the doomsayers may be right, as now we see that the government is going to appropriate an additional $75.3 million to pay for activities that the territory surely cannot afford.
Mr Speaker, although the Treasurer talks about the impact of the appropriation on the operating result being only $25.9 million, due to a large part of the $75.3 million being for the uptake of enterprise bargaining agreements, this $25.9 million still equates to more than three times—I say again “three times”—the original forecast surplus of $7.9 million. Surely the Treasurer cannot say that much of this new appropriation was unforeseen at the time of the original 2004-05 budget as the amount is much too large to justify in terms of minor tweaking of the budget for the purposes of CPI increases, increased supply charges and the like. In fact, a large proportion of this additional funding is to support, on the government’s own admission, a raft of 2004 election commitments—commitments that this government clearly cannot afford, given that this appropriation will now potentially lead to a significant deficit for the 2004-2005 financial year.
I am going to point out a number of activities where there are fundamental differences in terms of the revised targets which must be closely questioned by this Assembly and which justify explanation by this government. Interestingly, the additional amount of $8.239 million which has just been made part of the second appropriation to Urban Services in 2004-05 equals more than the total original forecast budget surplus of $7.9 million for the entire territory. Even taking into account that approximately $2.9 million of the additional funding for Urban Services is to cover wage increases, that still leaves a whopping $5.3 million in additionally appropriated funds, which is still a significant dent in the territory’s finances.
Looking more specifically at particular items that this $5.3 million is meant to cover we see that $2.3 million has been allocated to meet the increased cost of diesel fuel for ACTION buses. This is something that should have been foreseen more accurately as it is well known that all fuel costs have been on the increase for some time now and should have been appropriated accordingly in the original 2004-05 budget, not simply speculated upon in order to beef up the government’s desired forecast territory surplus.
I am also concerned about the additional funding of $200,000 to meet the increased charges for watering the territory’s sports grounds and ovals. These increased water rates were effective from 1 July 2004 and, again, could have been foreseen and appropriated in the original 2004-05 budget. Not only that, how is this additional $200,000 funding justified when the government clearly has let many sports grounds and ovals dry up? Exactly where is this water being used?
What about the projected cost savings that could have been made regardless of the increase in water rates if the Stanhope government had adopted the irrigation efficiency measures that the CSIRO recommended and that would have led to significant water