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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 June 2009) . . Page.. 2680 ..

There seems to be nothing to stop these consultations raising savings issues …

Mr Harris then observes that, if the consultations had identified savings prior to the 2009 budget, “savings could have been brought forward a year”. Treasurer, why did you fail to include these savings prior to the 2009 budget?

MS GALLAGHER: Well, that presumes that savings suggestions came through the consultation process. From my recollection, if we are talking about the same consultation process, we went out to the community and sought submissions, of which there were 80-odd. From memory, we were not inundated with savings ideas. We were given views. In fact, I think that we did ask, particularly on the online version, for ideas around revenue or savings measures, and we asked people to rank areas of government that they held most highly, in their views, for delivery of services.

What the opposition fail to understand—you can agree with Tony Harris’s analysis—is, yes, we could have brought forward savings options in this budget and, yes, we did contemplate that. It was part of our discussions in budget cabinet. The decision we took, and the advice that I sought, which included advice outside of the government, including from well-known economists, was that now was not the right time to impose savings on the ACT budget; that we were in a very strong position; that our balance sheet was strong; and that we were able to ride out what was going to be essentially a pretty tough 12 months. We were in a position where we could actually increase our expenditure to invest in jobs, to deliver on high-quality public infrastructure. These were views that were put to the government and the government tossed around, and we accepted them in the end. So the government did discuss at length the idea of savings.

I note in the opposition’s response to the budget that they have not identified any savings areas. In fact, all I am hearing from Alistair Coe is “do not include increased bus fares”. We have had the debate this morning about increasing appropriations to the Auditor-General. We look forward to the opposition buying into this process and providing us with their helpful ideas around savings. But we have to say that you cannot include the savings ideas you came up with just to spend for your election promises.

Mr Seselja: Are they savings? They are not savings?

MS GALLAGHER: They were to pay for your election promises. They were not actually to deal with the situation that we deal with now. That is the problem with your argument, Zed—the man with no plan. The only plan that the man with no plan has is the plan from September.

Mr Seselja: They’re real, though.

MS GALLAGHER: Well, the world has changed since September, Mr Seselja.

Mr Seselja: It was actually October.

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