Page 1140 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008
what one says. That is an extraordinarily positive result in a territory that does boast the strongest balance sheet in Australia. That is not just the Chief Minister’s assessment; that is the view of the independent credit agencies. So we are coming from a very, very strong position as we weather whatever cuts may be ahead.
But regardless of what the federal government has planned for the public service, I think it is safe to say that we are not on the verge of an employment crisis. What the Chief Minister said about there being more jobs to fill than there are people to fill them is valid. I consistently hear of people who change employment and the next day they are employed somewhere else. This certainly was not the case in other periods of modern Australian history, when people have often had to go for long periods without employment if they have lost their job, resigned or been made redundant.
As I have said before, if one takes the time to speak to the employment and recruiting industry, they will tell you that the problem facing that industry is finding people to fill jobs, not finding jobs for people. Nevertheless, it is naive to think that the razor gang will not cause public service employees some distress. Although we do not know the exact extent of the planned efficiencies—and this debate would be more useful probably after the federal budget is handed down—the exact extent of the planned efficiencies is, it is safe to assume, that there will be jobs lost and spending cuts. This will obviously have an impact on the Canberra community.
It should not be criticised out of hand, though. I said in the debate on Mr Seselja’s motion in March that it is somewhat ironic for the Liberal Party to be attacking efficiencies in government. And this continues to remain my position. You cannot advocate small, responsible government, which I assume the Liberal Party still purports to be committed to, without acknowledging that it is the responsibility—
Mr Barr: I think the jury is out on that one.
MR MULCAHY: The jury may be out, Mr Barr, but this is what the official record claims. But you cannot take that position without acknowledging that it is the responsibility of governments, at all levels, to search for efficiencies and savings in government. I have argued for that in this territory. I know it made some of my former colleagues terribly nervous, but it is an objective that all of us should be striving for, because waste in government, no matter who is in power, is not a good outcome for the community because ultimately the least able end up paying more in taxes and suffer as a consequence of government waste.
Ultimately, all of government is funded by taxpayers and there must be a high standard applied to the application of taxpayer funds. If efficiencies can be made in the public service, then it is a good thing. This is particularly true in a time of international economic pressures. It is the responsibility of governments to prudently expend public moneys. To do otherwise is reckless in the extreme. I will always have great difficulty in roundly criticising efficiencies in government. Yes, they can have a negative impact on a community, particularly when, as is the case of Canberra, so much of the population is employed in the public service. But governments have an overwhelming responsibility to expend public funds prudently.