Page 2516 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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pay; it is quite another to engage in these tax schemes, which ought rightly to be challenged and questioned. The question I also ask is where the minister—

Mr Quinlan: A lot of people are going to thank you for this, Richard.

MR MULCAHY: I think the people will thank me, because they rely upon employers. If you are a public sector employee, you have absolute reliance on your employer to do the right thing. I know some of the larger companies may have schemes that bring them into trouble, but you do not expect it if you are a public sector employee.

In the limited time I have available, let me say that I am pleased that, after our encouragement and strong pressure, the government has now decided to go to the Australian Taxation Office for advice, as was confirmed recently. That, I guess, is fair evidence of the fact that they do not feel they are on safe ground.

If it is confirmed that everything was in order, that would be terrific. But I think they have been cavalier in their approach. I use that term sensibly but appropriately. They have been cavalier in their approach in embarking on this scheme without, in fact, going ahead and getting a clear sign-off from the Australian Taxation Office.

There are procedures in place. They should have been employed and, if they had absolute confidence in the veracity of the advice they had and the correctness of their conduct, they would not have engaged in this risky undertaking and put employees at risk. People cannot afford to be facing the prospects of tax penalties. The government will need to consider what to do if this situation arises. It will lead to a significant increase in employee costs, and it is one about which they ought to be concerned and should never have taken the risk in the first place, without getting appropriate advice.

There are many areas in this area of administration that warrant attention. I have only touched on some; my colleagues will cover others, I am sure. But clearly this is one of the most poorly managed areas of ACT administration. It is regrettable and I hope the Assembly will scrutinise this part of the bill.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.23): Mr Speaker, what we have from the Liberal Party on this particular line is a maze of contradictions when it comes to what they would do to address the pressures that are occurring in our health system, as they are indeed occurring in health systems right around the country. I would like to characterise it as the spend less but spend more approach, because on the one side we have Mr Smyth and Mr Mulcahy, both in public commentary and also in the dissenting report on estimates, saying the health system costs too much.

What do they recommend, if their concern is that the health system costs too much? They recommend that we spend more. That is the Liberal Party’s muddle-headed approach to this issue. They say it costs too much; it is inefficient; we spend too much money—according to Mr Mulcahy and Mr Smyth, probably over $100 million too much in any one year. So what do they recommend? What does the shadow Treasurer recommend that we do to address this issue that they assert is of concern?

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