Page 31 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 14 February 2006

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MR SMYTH: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Chief Minister, what progress on this review has been reported to you by Mr Costello through his regular monthly reporting?

MR STANHOPE: I have received no formal advice from the functional review. The functional review will report, I think, in early April. I have had discussions with Mr Costello and Mr Smith and with Treasury officials, including the Under Treasurer, in relation to the nature of the work the functional review is undertaking, the basis on which it is proceeding with its investigations of potentially different structures for the delivery of government and the arrangement of the ACT public service and, indeed, around issues of efficient and effective utilisation of resources to deliver the very, very high level of government service which we as a government have certainly delivered in the ACT.

I expect the functional review will report on time, in early April, and I think the functional review will start from the position of confirming the enormous strength of the ACT budget. I think it is not denied that our position here within the ACT is strong and certainly the envy of other jurisdictions around Australia. Our balance sheet is probably the strongest of any government in Australia, reflected of course in the AAA credit rating, which has been renewed for the ACT, and in our position compared with all of the jurisdictions around Australia, in the straitened circumstances that many find themselves in as a result, particularly, of the cooling of the national economy or the turning in the cycle, for instance, of housing start-ups and many of the other indicators. If one goes to the indicators in relation to economic performance and the strength respectively of different jurisdictions, it is always comforting to go to those indicators as they apply in the ACT: unemployment of 3.3 per cent; highest confidence rates within business in the ACT; highest increase per capita in the number of people in employment in Australia; and highest level of housing start-ups in Australia, proportionately.

The economy here is enormously strong. Despite the continued efforts of the opposition to talk it down, the economy is strong and vibrant, and the levels of confidence are as high as they have ever been. Of course, the proof of that is in the fact that just in the last week the Liberal Party has floated a proposal for a $600 million convention centre precinct, a proposal obviously cleared by the shadow Treasurer. There is no way the shadow Treasurer would have approved the release of that particular policy proposal had he not cast his eye over it. We know what an expert the shadow Treasurer is in relation to matters financial. We are talking about a $600 million convention centre proposal, floated by the Liberal Party last week and, of course, underwritten and cleared by the shadow Treasurer before he would have allowed his leader to release it.

Who there in the Liberal Party would dare suggest that the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the Liberal Party, would release their $600 million convention centre proposal—the 5,000-square-metre convention centre; the two 300-bed, 4.55-star hotels; the $60 million recreation facility—in an environment where they have doubts about the inherent strength of the ACT economy? They would not have been that foolhardy to say, “Well, on the one hand, we’re talking down your economy; we’re suggesting that it’s in dreadful strife; you’re not managing; it’s Hanrahan time; we’ll all be rooned; the economy’s buggered. But we will embark on $600 million of underwritten government expenditure on a convention centre, which we know won’t pay, and on hotels in relation to which we are not sure there is any demand.”

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