Page 1462 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2006

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That is the sort of conversation that might be had around this particular budget. I say that in the context even of one of the Prime Minister’s newest initiatives; that is, the new reform agenda, co-sponsored effectively at the last meeting of the Council of Australian Governments by the Prime Minister John Howard and the Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, which led to the Council of Australian Governments adopting a new reform agenda.

It is a reform agenda that relies on significant expenditure; it is a reform agenda in relation to training, skills shortage, apprenticeships, education and what we as a nation need to do to drive productivity. Productivity is slipping; there is no doubt about it. It requires constant vigilance. But this budget does not delve into the sorts of issues that now constitute the national reform agenda as approved by COAG.

There are issues around the fact that this opportunity, in such a significant historical position of a large $14 billion surplus, did not go to the issues that the Council of Australian Governments, the Prime Minister and each of the premiers and chief ministers have agreed is the necessary reform required across Australia to drive economic activity, growth and productivity. This budget does not grasp and does not do anything to implement the national reform agenda agreed by COAG.

To the extent that part of that agenda in relation to human services has a commitment to target mental health and some other aspects of health care delivery, one acknowledges a significant boost within this federal budget for issues around mental health and some other identified or targeted areas of health care delivery in Australia.

Once again, the greatest issue facing states and territories—not just the Australian Capital Territory but also every state; it is a constant agenda item for each of the states and territories and each government in Australia on the ground delivering health care through our hospitals and primary health care arrangements—is the cost of the incrementally increasing demand for health care in an ageing society. There is nothing in this budget that seeks to address the essential needs of the territories in meeting that incrementally ratcheting demand for health care services.

Those are the opportunities that were not taken in this budget—the big picture issues. There is a grab for cash—we are all happy about it; a great big dropping of billions of dollars on the table, not necessarily or particularly in any sort of equitable fashion. Those middle income earners of Australia averaging $19 a pay through their particular tax scale—if you are on $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000—are not dancing in the street today.

MR SPEAKER: The Chief Minister’s time has expired.

Government—credit rating

MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Treasurer. Has the Treasurer seen the last ratings report on the ACT government by Standard and Poor’s? If not, why not? If he has seen it, when did he see it and has he read it? Has he or any official in the ACT government spoken to any person in Standard and Poor’s about its major findings? If so, when did those discussions take place and what were the outcomes of those discussions?

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