Page 2474 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 6 August 2013

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Too often in contemporary politics—particularly for an opposition—the focus is on the negatives. It almost has to be, and almost always is. Governments must be scrutinised. They must be accountable. This is a role of oppositions, and it is a role that is particularly necessary as governments become lazy, arrogant, aloof and accident prone.

But I would argue that is also a key role of committees and particularly the budget estimates committee, and I would like to say that this committee has performed that role diligently.

As I warned in my budget reply, if ever there was a government that was lazy, arrogant, aloof and accident prone, this is one, and the findings that are contained within the report that I have just tabled validate that assessment. I would expect that the Labor members of the committee will attempt to dispute some of the committee’s findings, but I would contend that the findings are consistent with what we heard in the hearings and the evidence that was provided for us. And I think that the fact that Mr Gentleman did not vote against the report would provide some tacit support for that position.

What the report finds in summary is three things. Firstly, this is a dishonest budget and it does not tell the truth or it attempts to hide the truth in a number of areas. On tax reform, this budget shows that we are on a path to tripling tax and that within 11 years rates will have tripled, based on what is contained in this budget. Further analysis of these tax reforms is missing. The changes to ACTEW and the water pricing, based on the ICRC determination, mean there is $100 million missing in this budget. Light rail is clearly being pursued for a political objective, without the objective analysis required.

Secondly, this budget simply does not deliver. There is more debt than ever. There are bigger deficits than ever, and that is all at a time when revenue is expected to grow so that the budget will have a billion dollars a year more by the end of the forward estimates than it does now. Thirdly, it is a budget from a government that has clearly lost touch with the priorities of the community. There are cuts to basic services, there are big impacts on the cost of living, jobs are being cut, and fees and charges are going up.

The estimates report contains 151 recommendations and a number of key findings that support the committee’s analysis, and I will go to a number of the key findings now. Obviously across all the portfolio areas—health, planning, education, JACS—there are detailed findings and detailed recommendations, and I will leave it for members to read the report in detail. But what I will do now is go to just a number of the key findings and recommendations.

Firstly, on the tax reform that has been subject to so much debate in this Assembly and the community, I will quote now from the report:

In the Committee’s view the outcome of tax reforms is unclear. In particular, it regards it as a matter for concern that the tax burden is being shifted from taxes to rates, commercial and domestic, without long-term analysis of effects.

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