Page 3461 - Week 09 - Thursday, 21 August 2008

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Surpluses ensure that we do not leave unfunded costs for future generations or future governments. They increase our capacity for future spending by reducing the government’s interest costs. Importantly, they allow us to maintain our AAA credit rating.

It has to be said that all that work is today at risk from an alternative government and alternative chief minister. The election commitments announced by the Liberals to date have racked up hundreds—I repeat: hundreds—of millions of dollars over the next term of government. Their additional expenditure and revenue commitments total $200 million over the four years. Their new capital commitments total $97 million.

These features alone—with many more to come I can only assume over the coming weeks—will send the territory into deficit for the first time since the Liberals were last in government. “Into the red with Zed” will be the campaign slogan of the Liberal Party. Back to the bad old days of unfunded promises—unfunded and undeliverable.

As I mentioned, the cumulative forecast general government sector net operating balance published in 2008-09 is $244 million over the cycle. In just seven easy steps, in the form of seven election commitments published on the website since April this year—this is just since April this year—the Liberals would slash that four-year cumulative surplus to $44 million. That is just in the last four months. That is without taking into account the $97 million worth of capital promises made in the same time; without factoring in the depreciation, the operating costs, repairs and maintenance of that capital program, all of which have an impact on the operating balance.

The government has worked hard to deliver budget surpluses. We are proud of our prudent approach to managing public finances. It is an approach that has allowed us to invest in significant social and physical infrastructure in the ACT—most recently the billion-dollar capital program that I announced in the recent budget. These investments that will increase the productive capacity of our economy, help our economy grow and give Canberra an edge against other urban centres when we compete for the best people.

All this hard work, all this responsible financial management, all this prudency will be for nought if the Liberals actually delivered on the preposterous, undeliverable promises that they are making to the people of Canberra. I can only assume that these are promises that were never intended to be kept or delivered. These are promises—we have seen it just in this last week or two—made by a party that will say anything and do anything to get into government. They are promises that have been cobbled together on the hop in response to issues of the moment. A GP bulk-billing clinic—

Ms Gallagher: That doesn’t bulk-bill.

MR STANHOPE: That is right: that does not bulk-bill. It would have been illegal. It is a classic. I reckon it is the classic in policy-making and delivering in a campaign. (Time expired.)

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms MacDonald?

MS MacDONALD: Chief Minister, do you have any concerns that the future balance sheet of the territory may be at risk?

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