Page 2517 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005
They assert in their recommendation—and I will just turn to it here—in their dissenting report: reallocate the balance of about $15 million to health. They recommend that we spend more. What sort of muddle-headed, absurd approach is that from the Liberal Party? On the one hand, they want to criticise what they believe is inefficiency; but then they want to increase the total of the budget. I would accept that, if they asserted there were inefficiencies, they would identify areas within the health portfolio where funding should be reallocated within the portfolio—working within the same total but redirecting the money within the portfolio into areas of focus that they believed were appropriate in the portfolio.
But that is not what they have done. Instead, they have dragged more money into the portfolio. They have not bothered to look at what the opportunities are for efficiency within the portfolio. Instead, they criticise the amount of what they believe is excessive expenditure in health, excessive costs of the system, and say, “We will fix this by putting more money into it.” That is the assertion from the Liberal Party, and it is an absurd one.
Mr Mulcahy also raised the issue around fringe benefits tax treatment and, in particular, issues around salary packaging. Mr Mulcahy walks in here and decides that he is some sort of self-confessed expert on salary packaging arrangements. I am sure that Mr Mulcahy has looked very closely at salary packaging in his previous lives. But that is not the point. The point is that Mr Mulcahy could not demonstrate that the department of health had acted in any other way, except an appropriate way, in making an assessment about salary packaging benefits and opportunities for ACT Health staff.
In fact, Mr Mulcahy and Mr Smyth went as far as to call it a rort, without any substantiation, without any way of proving what was wrong with the arrangement. In fact, the arrangement, from the advice I have received from the department, is an entirely appropriate arrangement. It recognises that our department, ACT Health, has a very large percentage of its work force engaged in work which supports the activities of public hospitals and that they are entitled, under tax law, to certain benefits because they support the activities of public hospitals.
Mr Mulcahy: Why have you gone to the ATO for a ruling?
MR CORBELL: I will come to that, Mr Mulcahy. If Mr Mulcahy wants to dispute the fact that people in ACT Health do not support the work of our public hospitals, I would be interested to know what he thinks they do, because that is indeed one of the primary functions of ACT Health.
Mr Mulcahy asks in his interjection, “Why didn’t you go to the ATO?” I do not know about you, Mr Mulcahy, but my understanding of the way this works is that the ATO does not provide rulings to organisations; it provides rulings to individuals who are seeking to clarify their personal tax arrangements.
The ATO does not say, “This is a blanket ruling covering every possible employment arrangement for people who work—all 4,500, nearly 5,000, of them—in ACT Health.” They do not do that, Mr Mulcahy. I would have thought someone with your extensive experience would have been aware of that fact. They give private rulings to individuals.