Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 March 2010) . . Page.. 988 ..
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Hargreaves for the question. What Mr Hargreaves alludes to in his question is absolutely correct. We have been facing unprecedented times in relation to the pressure that our budget is under. Every time we have sought to make tough budget decisions, those opposite have opposed them. They have had their political fun and games with it. But, thankfully, we did take those structural challenges head on in 2006, which has placed us in the position where, in 2008, we were able to implement a budget that actually increased investment in this city, at a time when our budget was under enormous stress. In fact, the ratings agencies have commented on the strength of our balance sheet actually giving us the capacity not to slash and burn but to see out the impacts of the global financial crisis.
We have further challenges on our hands with the results of the Commonwealth Grants Commission review, which has dealt the budget another blow. As we have done in years gone by, we will work carefully and methodically. We will take advice from industry, from the community sector and from our agencies about the best way to proceed. But at this point in time, the seven-year plan remains in place. The savings task is just that little bit harder. But I am very confident that we will be able to deliver a budget that supports business, supports industry, supports the community sector and allows the government to deliver key services to the community, particularly in health, education, disability, child protection—all of those areas that are so essential to our community’s wellbeing. That is the challenge that this government is prepared to take head on. It is hard, it is hard work, and it will not be universally applauded, I imagine. But this is the right way of proceeding to ensure that we can maintain services at a time when we are recovering our budget but supporting the economy.
MR COE: My question is to the Treasurer. Treasurer, you have made several public statements in relation to the ACT budget deficit. Most prominent in these statements has been your decision to freeze non-essential public service employment. Treasurer, what analysis has been completed with regard to the freeze and what sum will be saved by your freeze?
MR SPEAKER: The end of the question again, Mr Coe?
MS GALLAGHER: I think it was what analysis has been done of the freeze and what sum will be saved because of the freeze. I do believe I asked my office to send down to you a copy of the advice that we provided. I presume that you got that yesterday, Mr Coe. It will be clear from that advice that we have not attached a savings task to that. It is really about not putting staff on that we may not be able to keep on—to actually prevent a bigger issue next year than we need to face. That is the message that has been sent to agencies. We have not allocated—
Mr Smyth interjecting—
MS GALLAGHER: The savings for this year have actually already been met. We actually have already recouped, I think, $10 million worth of savings. The staffing freeze was never intended to deliver extra savings for this year because, as members