Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 June 2016) . . Page.. 1788 ..
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.35): I welcome the opportunity to debate this motion today although of course, as Mr Hanson has just noted, budget reply speeches will be on tomorrow. I will certainly have more to say at that time. I turn to the motion that is before us today. This is, of course, a regular motion from Mr Smyth. We see one of these on the Wednesday after the budget each year, but I can indicate at this stage that I will be supporting the amendment moved by Mr Barr, which I believe to be a more accurate reflection of the budget.
Turning to the specifics of Mr Smyth’s motion, Mr Smyth has raised as his first point that Mr Barr inherited a surplus when he became Treasurer. He then goes on to say that he has never achieved a surplus in the time he has been Treasurer. While this may be technically true, I think it fails to take into account the fact that the ACT government was responding to the global financial crisis at the start of that process. There was a long-term plan to support the ACT economy through those turbulent times and then return to a surplus over an extended period.
That is something that we have discussed in the Assembly many times since that period. It is something that the Greens have supported through the last term of the Assembly and have continued to support through this term. We have consistently said that we are committed to a balanced budget over the economic cycle, and that has been something that we have continued to work towards.
There had been a planned return to surplus by 2015-16. I think everybody in this place knows that there have been a few hiccups that the government has had to manage along the way. That return to surplus has been shifted by a couple of years. But the Greens are supportive of the government’s response to some of those hiccups that have occurred and acknowledge the fact that they have meant that it has been a tougher path to a return to surplus.
Things such as dealing with the Mr Fluffy crisis and supporting those people who are living in houses with remnant and dangerous loose-fill asbestos have been perfectly reasonable things to do. There has been complete transparency about the impact that that has had on the budget. I think that has been a path that the community would expect us to follow. This is one of those classic cases where if you took the conservative approach of a surplus at all costs, the necessary response would have been to ignore and do nothing about the Mr Fluffy issue. I just do not think that that is an acceptable community outcome.
This budget walks the fine line between balancing the territory government expenditure and maintaining our AAA credit rating. This is something that Mr Smyth’s motion has not addressed. It is something that is very clear in the budget process. It is something that the Treasurer has spoken about in some detail. I think it is a credit to this budget and the pathway that it sets us upon that that AAA credit rating will be preserved for the ACT.
It has been a difficult job to return the budget to an operating surplus while delivering vital reforms and new infrastructure for the people of Canberra. But the budget again has walked that line whilst maintaining a close eye on our debt and our credit rating.