Page 232 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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I look forward to the launch. We are nearly ready. It is those last details, ensuring that we can follow up and manage the responses, that have led to us ensure that we get it right before we launch it. It will involve a major advertising campaign. I hope it is successful. It is an additional arrow in the bow in relation to the things that we need to do, as a city and community, to address issues of skills and population.

There is a population aspect to this, of course. We have to acknowledge our relatively low population growth over recent years. Perhaps, with this particular initiative, we can begin to address the two issues with the one program.

Budget—midyear review

MRS BURKE: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, the midyear review of the ACT budget that your Treasurer tabled yesterday notes that a balance of unencumbered cash had been accumulated over recent years. Page 6 of the report states, “The currently forecast budget deficits can be accommodated without the need for a large borrowing program.” Chief Minister, given that the midyear review that you have released acknowledges that some borrowings will be required, how much will be required and what will these borrowings be used for?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Mrs Burke for her question. As Mrs Burke said, the midyear review indicates that territory unencumbered cash certainly will decline. I am going on memory but I think it will be something of the order of $250 million this year to $1 million next and then it will grow in the outyears. As Mrs Burke said, the midyear review indeed indicates that the approved capital works program can be funded without the need for large borrowing. Indeed, the capital works program, as approved, can be funded without any borrowing.

I think that is an interesting form of expression that is used in the midyear review. I do not know why those particular words were utilised in the context of approved capital works. The statement to which Mrs Burke referred, which remains positive, means that the approved capital works program can be funded without borrowing. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong in borrowing. We have a very low borrowing ratio in the ACT—it is probably fair to say that we have the lowest in Australia. It is not something that governments in the ACT have been inclined to do, though by device it has been forced on agencies such as ActewAGL, in particular, by the previous government in relation to its one and only attempt at seeking to fund our superannuation liability.

Essentially that was achieved by that sleight of hand of forcing borrowings upon ActewAGL and, as the Treasurer indicated yesterday, by robbing Peter to pay Paul—dragging a dividend out of ActewAGL to lump into superannuation liability and, in doing so, forcing ActewAGL to borrow. But there is nothing intrinsically wrong at all. This is not some shock-horror possibility or prospect that the territory might choose to borrow. There is a range of very good reasons why we might borrow.

In answer to Mrs Burke’s question, at this stage the government has given no detailed or active consideration to borrowing. We have only just begun our budget cabinet process for this year. I think I indicated in answer to Mr Seselja yesterday that there is no aspect of the government’s finances, or the future, or the way in which revenue will be sought

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