Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003
Parliamentary Record 13
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 19 June 2003 Business wants to invest somewhere where their employees will enjoy a good lifestyle and high quality services, not a place where below standard services are provided because of the resources that that jurisdictions debt servicing requires. Currendy, 750 out of every $1 raised in Territory taxes is needed to meet the interest bill on debt the former government left to Territorians. Yet, the opposition thinks that that should rise further. With the railway and the potential industrialisation gas onshore will bring, we are now playing in the big league. We have to demonstrate that we are fiscally responsible and that our tax regime is competitive with the rest of the world. That is what rating agencies like Standard & Poors are saying to the rest of the world. They are also saying that the Martin government is heading in the right direction; that the Territory cannot afford to repeat the financial outcomes of the late 1990s that characterised the former governments budgetary management. It is a demonstration of faith in this governments leadership and a stunning denunciation of former Chief Ministers. What also astonished me was the wilful misrepresentation of the budget data. It started with the Opposition Leader, was reinforced by his current deputy, and carried on by many on the opposite side. Some of them are still a little green to have been very familiar with those budget papers but, at best, they have demonstrated collectively that they are lazy by failing to read the wealth of information - far more information than was ever provided under CLP budget papers. For a start, the Opposition Leader claimed that no agency shown in the budget papers is expected to come in exactly on its 2002-03 budget figure. With a statement like that, it is no wonder the CLP never ever let him be Treasurer, because he clearly has no understanding of the budget processes. It is most unlikely - in fact, thousands and thousands to one in terms of odds - that any agency would ever come in exactly on budget. You would want to look very closely at the figures if they did come to you claiming they had spent to the cent what was projected because governments change the roles and responsibilities of agencies. That necessitates various transfers from one agency to another. Urgent needs arise during the course of the 12-month period, unforeseen at budget time, and revenue estimates will always vary. What matters is not whether an agency A, B or C comes in exactly on the figure, but whether or not, across all of the agencies, expenditure is being kept within the total budget limit and the budget bottom line has not blown out. Throughout the two budgetary periods this government has experienced, we have well and truly achieved that, unlike the Country Liberal Party. For a start, we need go back no further than 2001-02 when the then Treasurer, at the start of that financial year, said the budget deficit for the 2001-02 year would be around SI2m. Some weeks later, we were confronted with the reality that it was between $126mand $139m ... Mr Dunham: No, you were not, $107m you told us. You said $107m, and you included NT Fleet in there. Mr STIRLING: So you could not even get it right at the outset, let alone allowing for the changes that occur over time. We, by forthright and diligent management, managed to bring that deficit in at about $83m, an improvement again to the bottom line. The year before was even worse ... Mr Dunham: $150m unforeseen from the Commonwealth. Mr STIRLING: He insists on provoking me to this but, in 2000-01 it was going to be a $lm surplus - end result? - $275m deficit! That is your fiscal management record ... Mr Dunham: We know yours, too, mate! Mr STIRLING: That is the claim you put in this House when you delivered the budget and then, when we finally got the outcomes some 15 or 16 months later - not bad, only $276m out actually, because you predicted a $lm surplus and you blew it to a $275m debt. Mr Dunham: Tell us about your policy decision. Mr STIRLING: Well, it has not happened under us, and it will not. It has not and will not happen under this government. We are improving the bottom line. The end result of those years in CLP is that Territorians pay every day of the week, day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out, for a year, $500 000 a day in interest on the debt that you blokes ran up. That is a reality that cost has to be met before we even begin to look at services - teachers, doctors, hospitals, nurses, all of the services that the government is expected to provide to Territorians: $0.5m a day! Mr Dunham inteijecting. Mr STIRLING: Madam Speaker, a common ... Madam Speaker, if he is so concerned about this, I challenge he and the Leader of the Opposition to go on this outcome. I challenge he and the Leader of the Opposition to examine the records of every Territory budget handed down and find one-just one out of all of those 26 Vi years of budget - agency 4377
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