Page 112 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 9 December 2008

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Madam Assistant Speaker, the ACT government is getting on with the job. We are listening, investing and delivering. I thank the Assembly for enabling me today to outline our range of plans and initiatives aimed at building the ACT into a truly sustainable community. I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (4.53): I thank the minister for her ministerial statement and the opportunity to respond to it. Unlike the Chief Minister’s, it is something that does reflect her portfolio responsibilities and therefore would be truly in keeping with a ministerial statement, unlike the drivel we had from the Chief Minister. But I think the minister is just simply reading, again, the election platform of the Labor Party. It does not bear any scrutiny. When you compare it with the actual outcomes, and you compare it with the commitments made during the last seven years, it certainly does not match what has happened. You only have to refer back to the government’s own economic white paper on page 6:

With this in mind, there is a need to diversify the ACT economy to build a strong private sector. We need to do this to lessen the economic dependence we have on Commonwealth activity, and because a stronger and more diverse private sector represents the bridge to the new economy that will help the ACT create a more dynamic and attractive society.

We should also not fear strategies that pursue economic growth and development.

Instead of the story that the Treasurer tells, we really have to go to the truth of the matter, and that is simply this: the government received an extra $1.7 million of revenue over that which they estimated, and at this point in time as the economic downturn commences they have left us with surpluses in the outyears that are paper thin. If today’s Appropriation Bill goes forward, the 2008-09 surplus would be reduced to $50 million, in 2009-10 only $10 million, in 2010-11 it would be $11 million and in 2011-12 it would be $13 million—and that is paper thin.

The government say: “We worked hard and planned well to achieve this. Going forward, we will underpin our budget policy with a focus on sustainability of high quality services and fiscal discipline.” But you can only do that if you are in surplus, and you can only do that, in reality, if you have the recurrent expenses to staff the hospitals, to staff the schools and to staff the shopfronts—and what we do not have is that recurrent latitude in this budget.

Indeed, if the $1.7 million of revenue that arrived, which they had not expected, had not arrived, we would have had simply a series of deficits from this government. Again the minister’s statement says: “Our budget is in a strong position. We have reduced significantly the historical mismatch between our revenues and our expenses. We created the buffer to deal with unforeseen circumstances and fiscal shocks.” And what is the buffer in the outyear? The buffer is $10 million, $11 million and $13 million. That is not good financial management.

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