Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 7 May 2009) . . Page.. 2089 ..
What has the government done in this budget in the face of all this? Nothing; it is business as usual and that business is spending. It is a sign as clear as the budget bottom line that this Treasurer and this government do not know what to do. It is a fingers crossed, hope for the best, rabbit in the spotlight, leave it till tomorrow budget, and no matter how you look at it we are faced with a dead end of deficit and debt.
Some of the problems in this budget stem from a simple premise that Katy Gallagher and Jon Stanhope, who so willingly cling to the raft of the GFC, will not accept other equally important and compelling facts. There is no plan to accept the facts. This government does not want to talk about those relevant facts and has no plans to talk about them in the future. Yes, we have the global financial crisis and that has played a part in affecting the ACT economy and the ACT budget; we do not dispute that. But Jon Stanhope has spent the last seven years taking credit for the economy when times were good. He and Katy Gallagher must take some of the responsibility now that times are bad.
They must also accept the following facts. Fact 1: even though we currently face difficult economic conditions, this government has enjoyed the single biggest economic boom in the history of the territory. Fact 2: this government was the recipient and beneficiary of over $1.6 billion in unexpected windfall revenues, revenues that could have been used to protect the economy before a crisis hit, instead of sitting dormant waiting to be wiped out after it did. These windfall revenues far outstrip any loss of revenue as a result of the downturn. Fact 3: this budget’s bottom line revenues are still amongst the largest the territory has ever known. If we could keep the budget line positive with a much smaller revenue base, why is it now impossible to avoid recession and years of deficits?
Fact 4: the ACT was the first Australian jurisdiction in recession. If our problems were all due to the GFC, why are we in recession on our own? Fact 5: the ACT is heading into seven years of deficits; other states have returned surpluses. If all our problems were due to the GFC, why are other states able to balance their budgets in the midst of it? The fact is that our current position cannot be due to the GFC alone. There are—there must be—other factors as well. It therefore follows that some of the situation is a result of choices—choices this government made that left us so vulnerable to the downturn and the choices this government now makes as we face these difficulties.
It is also a fact that it is the responsibility of governments to respond to challenges, not to run for cover. There is no plan for recovery. Given this overview of the situation we are in and the extraordinary bill of an underlying deficit of $770 million, it is heartbreaking to find no real plan in this budget to get us out of this crippling debt. It has been couched as a plan for recovery. It is nothing of the sort. An examination of the numbers, particularly in the outyears, shows how bereft of ideas and how barren of solutions this government is.
But the crucial year, the year which has not been fully scrutinised, is 2012-13. The figures for those years are some of the most telling and compelling figures in this budget. In 2012-13 we are projected to have more revenue than ever before in the