Page 2050 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

I do not have a problem with consultation but the reason I am concerned is that I fail to see any evidence, through the entire estimates hearings, that justifies all this material that finishes on page 33 and is embraced on the preceding pages. It seemed to have been largely an area of interest for one member and probably suits the government, given that they launched their consultation strategy the other day. I would have thought that the estimates process should have related to what was brought before us. We have tried quite diligently in the dissenting report to avoid straying into areas of personal interest but to confine ourselves to matters that were considered by the committee. I would ask that that be noted and I express my concern in relation to that.

We also spoke about policing. Whilst the police minister ducked and weaved as to the numbers of police available, the game was given away by one of his officers. I do not know whether he has been dispatched to the Northern Territory or somewhere else, but we were fascinated to hear that the ACT is at least 112 police officers short of what is needed to protect our community at the national average standard. I was quite amazed to hear the chief of police—I notice he has gone—strenuously attempting to tell us that there had not been a problem in the inner south of Canberra and that there had only been five property crimes.

As Mr Pratt has told this house on many occasions previously, there has been much more. When I tabled an exhibit that showed 62 incidents over a few nights in one district of Canberra the chief of police and the minister looked a bit dismayed. That exhibit is part of the estimates report. It points to the fact that there are real problems out there. I sympathise with the incapacity of the police to deal with this and I certainly felt sorry for the chief of police, who had to sit there and try to defend a situation that he knew in his heart was one that was caused simply by the lack of numbers. We will hear more about that, no doubt, in the debate.

The minister of course continues to argue that police numbers are not the issue; that productivity is what counts. Ms Gallagher and I have had many discussions on productivity. She does not believe in that concept; she believes that productivity is all about lowering the standard of living. In the case of the police, we do not look at numbers apparently, we simply look at productivity. That is an interesting perspective.

As a former tax official I was also quite intrigued to hear Dr Sherbon struggle his way through the FBT issue with the health department employees. Whilst a number of these documents remain privileged, all I can say is that the recommendation in here, Treasurer—and I would urge you to take heed of this; it is in the main report—I believe is that we urge that tax office advice be sought very rapidly because there is preliminary information that suggests that we may be in some difficulty in relation to these arrangements that were the subject of considerable discussion.

I have no issue with employees receiving benefits, but I worry that people who are working in good faith in the public sector who rely on their employer to get it right may have found themselves caught up in a tax arrangement that could result in them receiving adverse assessments. This is not good. I would urge the Treasurer to speak to his ministerial colleague, get this right, get accurate rulings and not rely on extrapolated advice from New South Wales or elsewhere.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .