Page 904 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 24 February 2009

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it budgeted for—to the tune of around $1.6 billion over and above what had been budgeted. We have seen the size of the ACT budget grow in a massive way during that time.

We know where the money came from—it came from the property boom, stamp duty in particular, other conveyancing and land sales. We have seen significant amounts of money flowing into territory coffers. We have seen extra money from GST, and, of course, we have seen significant tax increases on ordinary Canberrans. As a result of all of these things, we have seen a massive revenue boom.

The government sought to take the credit for that during the good times. They said they were good economic managers because they could run some surpluses in the best economic times that this country and, in fact, I think this city has ever experienced. We have had the massive growth in commonwealth employment, fuelled, of course, in part, by the sound economic management of the former Howard government. In the last few years of the Howard government, contrary to Mr Rudd’s recent assertions, we saw a big increase in the size of the public service and we actually saw significant benefits as a result for Canberra, for Canberrans, for jobs here in the territory and, of course, for revenue flowing into territory coffers. So they claim the credit for that, but the ACT government did nothing in that time to diversify the economy; they did nothing to actually really find genuine savings.

Talk about waste. They have had this $1.7 billion windfall, and we saw the stark contrast during the election campaign between the Labor and Liberal parties. The Labor Party refused to make any savings to pay for their promises. They came out with promises that they had not planned on making, particularly in relation to smaller class sizes, but they refused to make any savings. We saw even in those good times that their projected surpluses were whittling away as a result of poor economic management. They were disappearing. There was no stimulus.

The Liberal Party actually put forward a stimulus package involving getting rid of stamp duty for first home buyers, and we did it through limiting some of the growth in the outyears and through cutting some of the obscene examples of wasteful expenditure. This government said, “That is unacceptable. We shouldn’t be looking for savings”. They made all sorts of hysterical claims about what we were doing, but it was the right thing to do. It is the right thing to target your spending, to target your tax cuts to stimulate the economy so it helps first home buyers. But to do that responsibly you actually have to cut out some of the waste, and this government has refused to do that. They have refused to offer relief to first home buyers and they have refused to offer any genuine tax relief in their entire time in government, but they have continued to spend.

They were able to get away with it, in a sense, during the good times because they could still deliver surpluses, although surpluses which were getting smaller and smaller. Those surpluses should have been bigger and should have been invested in real and lasting infrastructure. We should have seen an investment in structural reform, and we saw an exercise in pretending to be about fiscal management—they closed a few schools. We saw the panicked response to that and the minimal savings as a result of that.

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