Page 2629 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 23 June 2009

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incorporated a number of policy decisions with respect to savings in this budget and clearly specified its targets for the coming seven years.

The government has articulated its approach and the processes it would adopt for its future saving decisions. The committee has not engaged on these matters. Reference to the budget plan appears only once in the entire report, as a footnote noting the government had updated it following the commonwealth budget. Does the committee have a view on the objectives of the plan that the government has adopted? Does the committee have a view on the time horizon, the return-to-surplus period? Does the committee have a view on the balance between expenditure and revenue measures that the government should pursue? Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, the committee’s report appears to steer well clear of these pertinent strategic, financial and economic issues.

There is only one reference to unallocated savings, recommendation 52, where the committee recommends the government, in determining currently unallocated savings, avoid any unnecessary imposition on front-line health services and report back to the Assembly with progress by the last sitting day of the 2009 calendar year. Of course the government will avoid any unnecessary imposition on front-line health services. The government’s budget plan is based on preserving and, in fact, enhancing priority services where necessary. But did the committee provide an input to the government on what is necessary and what it considers unnecessary imposition?

The committee had the benefit of analysis and advice from an expert of the background, experience and calibre of Mr Tony Harris, an expert engaged by the committee itself, I might add. Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, the committee does not appear to have engaged with its own expert advice. At least the report does not reflect his analysis and conclusions. The government appreciates Mr Harris’s analysis of the territory’s financial position, its ability to support borrowings to finance capital investment and its strength to absorb temporary deficits over the recovery period. I note that Mr Harris has also analysed an extreme scenario where none of the savings is realised and revenues fall by a further $200 million. He has concluded that neither of the ensuing net debt and interest charges are particularly worrisome. These are important matters in the context of the current fiscal and economic environment and unfortunately the committee’s report is silent on all of these matters.

Mr Harris has also analysed the integrity of the government’s budget estimates and its record on managing expenditures to budget, and the government is pleased with his conclusions. Mr Harris has noted that the drop in revenue following the commonwealth budget update would further endanger the government’s policy of fully funding superannuation by 2030. The government has indicated that a review will be undertaken during the 2009-2010 financial year to assess the magnitude and timing of further cash injections to achieve the objective of fully funding the liability.

Mr Speaker, I sincerely believe that the chair of the estimates committee, who I note has not even come down to hear this response, failed to understand its role. The committee serves the interests of this Assembly and the community. It is not there to serve his political interests. The chair missed an opportunity to provide substantial and constructive input into what has been a tough budget to bring together given the difficult economic climate.

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