Page 3925 - Week 10 - Thursday, 28 August 2008
only have we maintained a level of fiscal discipline unmatched by any previous government, but we have achieved this even after inheriting years of operating deficits—a legacy of the last Liberal government. I think we all know by now that the legacy of the last period of Liberal government was accumulated deficits of $800 million. It is no wonder that Canberrans distrust the opposition and the outlandish and reckless promises they are making in an effort to get elected.
One of the biggest initiatives that this government has taken is the structural reforms of the 2006-07 budget. In the absence of these reforms, the budget would today be in deficit by $150 million per annum or thereabouts over the next four years, instead of being in surplus. By taking the approach we have, we are building a much better city and a much stronger community.
The reforms were necessary not because there was an immediate crisis but because there would have been one in the coming decades had the government not taken the action that it did. I am proud of the steps which the government took in introducing those reforms and in delivering a balance sheet now which is the envy of governments around Australia. We have amongst the strongest balance sheets of all Australian governments. It is testimony to the tough decisions that we have taken and the fiscal discipline that we have shown. It is one of the great strengths of this team in government.
It is important to recognise that the government’s structural reforms were largely focused on efficiency gains and that they were not entirely reliant on revenue measures. It is because of those reforms that we have been able to invest to the extent that we have. It is why we have made a record investment in health and have provided, for instance, an extra 147 beds, fully staffed and equipped. We are renewing our schools and building new schools in areas of demand. We are investing in quality education. We have made our community safer, with more police on the beat, and we are making our neighbourhoods better, with massive investment in community infrastructure. We are releasing land at record levels. We have actually funded a $1 billion infrastructure investment—a $1 billion infrastructure fund over and above our rolling capital works program, and an infrastructure fund that is supported by accumulated cash surpluses. We are doing all of that while continuing to deliver budget surpluses into the future.
In the context of fiscal discipline and the reason for its importance, the great risk, of course, to that can be seen in the history of the opposition in government—their record $800 million of accumulated deficits over the term of their last period in government. We see again that the Liberal Party, in the context of this campaign, has begun to engage in exactly the same sort of behaviour that led to that deficit of $800 million. Already, in the context of this term and this election, the opposition have made spending promises amounting to half a billion dollars between now and 2011-12, along with promises to cut revenue by around $300 million, which would result in a hit straight to the bottom line of the budget and, over the term of the cycle, would deliver a cost to government of around $800 million. That is in the context of budget surpluses of $200 million.
You need to look at and understand these sums. The opposition have, on the record, promises, statements and claims in relation to revenue cuts and expenditure that total