Page 2570 - Week 07 - Thursday, 18 June 2009

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Maconochie Centre must be fairly straightforward for the Liberals as well. We look forward to the Liberals maybe having a view on this matter.

Budget—independent analysis

MS BURCH: My question is to the Treasurer. Treasurer, can you inform the Assembly of the findings of any independent analysis undertaken of the 2009-10 budget?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Burch for this very important question, leading into the debate of the territory’s 2009-10 budget next week. As members are aware, the government supported and welcomed the motion for the engagement of expert advice by the Select Committee on Estimates, to facilitate and assist with the assessment and analysis of the Treasury’s budget. We welcomed the provision of independent, informed and objective analysis of the state of the territory’s economy and finances. I note that the estimates committee engaged Mr Tony Harris, the former New South Wales Auditor-General and now a professorial fellow in accounting and finance at the University of Wollongong—an expert consultant with a wealth of experience and expertise in financial, economic and budgetary issues.

Members would be well aware that Mr Harris has provided expert commentary in the past on the ACT budget—an area of his own interest. As such, Mr Harris proffered the committee with not only his insight into this budget but also his knowledge of past budgets—expertise that is not commonly found.

The estimates committee report outlined that Mr Harris provided the committee with support and advice on technical aspects of the budget throughout the estimates process, including: a review of the 2009-10 budget; daily analysis of hearing outcomes pertaining to the financial issues raised; analysis on the outyear funding for both health and education; and comments on the effects of the ACT budget of commonwealth funding and the potential impacts of the International Monetary Fund’s prediction of slower than expected economic growth.

Mr Harris provided the committee with eight individual papers on a range of issues, within what I understand to be extremely fast turnaround times, and these reports can be found on the committee website. I should say that, notwithstanding the short time frames available to him, Mr Harris has provided some succinct and thoughtful reports.

I should start with two observations within Mr Harris’s main report that was done on the review of the budget as a whole. Mr Harris recognised, firstly, the difficulty in formulating a budget during these difficult economic times. In fact, his main report on the budget starts with this observation:

Formulating budgets during these difficult economic times is a fraught exercise. For a start, forecasting—never an exact science—is more difficult when the direction of the economy is changing significantly. Trying to determine accurately the timing and extent of a turning point—in this instance from recession to recovery—makes the task harder. The atypical nature of this recession, in its depths and its causes, added to problems of forecasting revenues and expenditures. These uncertainties probably made the 2009-10 budget significantly harder to frame than most.

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