Page 1427 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2006

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It could not be more in contrast and it certainly removes an argument that the problems are part of a broad economic problem that might be in our community, because we know that, from an economic perspective, Australia has done remarkably. Indeed, there has to be some other factor in play. In terms of the ACT’s position, clearly the responsibility does rest with this government and, in particular, the Chief Minister, who has assumed the role of being Treasurer.

The Chief Minister has been positively euphoric that by 2008-09 the budget outcome under the AAS reporting method will be an operating loss of $16.8 million—at least that is what he is saying today. He is woefully wide of the mark, and history will show how wrong he is. I am sure that, as we move towards that date, there will be 100 different excuses provided as to why the amount was only an estimate and that he would not want to be held to that. But the people of Canberra will neither forget nor forgive him, mainly because his administration has plunged the budget into the red, despite warnings in his own published documents that his spending was resulting in the government living far beyond its means. He had known what he was doing and had not, obviously, cared for the consequences until very recently.

I believe that the people of Canberra will call the Chief Minister to account because they are the ones who will have to foot the bill for this style of administration and poor management. It is Canberrans who now face the prospect of higher taxes and charges at the same time as services are being cut. So here we have a situation where the territory is challenged with its economic position and it is going to be challenged with its revenues. We have heard it announced already that the people of Canberra expect far too much in terms of services. Yet last night the people of Australia heard of generous concessions with income tax for everybody from the most needy to those on the highest levels of incomes. We have seen special changes in Australia that will impact on superannuants that are showing vision in terms of the changing demographics in Australia, but in the ACT there is going to be grim and bad news.

It is Canberrans who will continue to pay higher car registration fees, higher parking charges, hikes in rates and land tax, and any new thing that can be dreamt up by the government to squeeze more money out of them, such as the ill-considered measure that we heard recently in relation to motor vehicles that was eventually abandoned because it was so absurd. It is, unfortunately, our fellow Canberrans who are seeing hospital waiting times increase; public safety being compromised, even causing the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police to upset Mr Corbell by pointing out the obvious; schools and their grounds deteriorating; roads and bridges cracking up; and water pipes and sewerage lines in urgent need of maintenance.

That the government is in severe trouble there is no doubt. I do not think anybody in Canberra is not now aware of this situation. But the question is: to what extent and why? Certainly, the most accurate measure of the government’s operating results over the years, and forecasts, is the GFS, the government financial statistics. This method of public sector accounting is used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, by most Australian states and by the commonwealth government.

Mr Corbell: Did the Carnell government ever use it?

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