Tuesday 8 July 2008
Consolidated Fund Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2008 (No.32)

Output group 3
Government businesses 
3.2 State Fire Commission –
Mr FINCH - Madam Deputy Chair, in the State Fire Commission, there was an item, borrowing costs.  We went into it in some detail in the budget Estimates, and got some fulsome answers.  The estimated cost for this financial year and the next three is at a constant $430 000 on borrowings of about $4.7 million, so I am curious as to whether capital is being paid off as well as the interest. 

We were told that the loan has been renegotiated, but I would have thought that with rising interest rates we would see a sort of rising estimate for each successive financial year, or an allocation made for that, or is the interest rate fixed?  If it is fixed, I am wondering at what rate it is fixed at, because, as I say, it is not changing in the situation of borrowings. 

Mr Aird - I will try to get that information for you.

Mr FINCH - Okay, thanks.  I will continue.  It was revealed in the Estimates that the Fire Commission not only has this loan from the 1980s - I think it might have been mid-1980s - but it also operates an overdraft.  One explanation for this was the quarterly payment system, but of course there is the situation where you can get ahead in your budgeting.  I am just curious about whether the commission has any surplus land or buildings which might be sold to some way pay off that debt, to just eliminate that from the books, and I am wondering whether there is a chance of getting that adjusted.

Mr Dean - They could increase the levy.

Mr Harriss - Tax.

Mr AIRD - As Treasurer, I am very interested in that proposition.

Mr Harriss - What - increasing the fire tax?

Mr AIRD - No.  I do not have all the detail, but I will raise that issue with them.  I do not have the detailed information, but I will take that and get back to the honourable member.  I will pursue that with them and get the information back for you.

Mr FINCH - Treasurer, the minister told us at the budget Estimates that talks were going on between the Fire Commission and Treasury, and that a review is under way.  I am wondering whether that review is likely to provide some information about that.

[5.00 p.m.]
Mr AIRD - It will be a Treasury review.  I have not signed off on the terms of reference yet.

Ms Forrest - Still not; you told me they would be ready in three days and that will be on Hansard.

Mr AIRD - Yes, I know.

Ms Forrest - And that was my next question.

Mr AIRD - I have not signed off on them.

Ms Forrest - Here was I expecting you to have them tabled today, at least.

Mr AIRD - Yes, I think you should be too.

Ms Forrest - You were very confident and you've let me down.

Mr AIRD - Yes, I was.  I stand suitably chastised.

Ms Forrest - I am pleased.

Mr AIRD - I will find out where they are.  I know they should be in my office about now.

Mr Dean - So the next time he says he is confident, what are we to do?

Mr AIRD - You just have to say, 'He looks confident'.

Members laughing.

Ms Forrest - But we can't believe him.

Mr AIRD - But he has his fingers crossed.

Ms FORREST - I think I need to put it on the record, Madam Deputy Chair, that the Treasurer did assure me that the terms of reference should be available within two or three days and that was a week and a half ago.  It is disappointing that they are not here.  The question is, when can we expect to see them and how will they be distributed?

Mr AIRD - As soon as possible.

Ms FORREST - So will you provide them to the members who have an interest in this?

Mr AIRD - Wait until I have had a look at them.

Ms FORREST - So you haven't even seen them yet?

Mr AIRD - I have to sign off on them and I haven't done that.  When I do, I will make the determination about -

Ms FORREST - Distributing them or otherwise.  I assume that once you sign off they will be accepted.

Mr AIRD - My view is it is best to make as much public as I possibly can and my predisposition is to give you the terms of reference, at the very least.

Ms FORREST - Thank you.  I will expect them in the mail next week, Madam Deputy Chair.