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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008-2009 Week 1 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 412..


MS LE COUTEUR (continuing):

With respect to the arboretum, we understand there are currently contractors working at the arboretum and that this expenditure is necessary to enable them to complete the projects on which they are currently engaged. The alternative to including this item in the appropriation bill would therefore be to have them cease work and remove themselves from the site before completing their work. This would only mean that at a later date they would have to mobilise again on the site to finish the job off and then would charge the ACT government more for doing this. We do not want to waste taxpayers' money by causing work to stop and then recommence in such a way, so we support the inclusion of this item in the bill.

We also note that this expenditure will also go to a project of the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park, a community group support by the Friends of Grasslands and the Australian Native Plant Society, to plant native trees in the southern tablelands for an educational program. This project needs to begin in time for autumn planning and hence it does not need to be funded immediately.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (8.30): I want to make a couple of quick points on the issues that have been raised. I doubt that any of us do not share some of the frustration which the Leader of the Opposition expressed in relation to the Beijing relay. It is an issue that does frustrate me in the context of the response which we have received to date from the commonwealth. It is an issue that certainly frustrated me.

I believe there was at one level a breach of faith. There was an agreement between the head of the Chief Minister's Department and the then head of the Prime Minister's department that the commonwealth would meet our understanding. I must say we learn constantly. There was nothing in writing. There was simply a conversation and an understanding or undertaking between two heads of two public services, the head of the Chief Minister's Department representing the ACT government and the head of the Prime Minister's department representing the commonwealth. We were given what we believed to be an undertaking by Dr Peter Shergold on behalf of the commonwealth, acknowledging that it was a national event and acknowledging the role of the commonwealth as the national government here in the national capital. And the spirit of what we believed to be an agreement, I have to say, has not been met.

The commonwealth was generous to the extent that commonwealth or federal agents of the Australian Federal Police were heavily involved on the day. The event did require a level of security which we never anticipated. The costs were much higher, because of that, than we had initially planned for. And we are bearing a higher proportion of the costs than we initially imagined that we would.

I am still awaiting a response from the Prime Minister to my latest representations. As Ms Le Couteur has just said, though, these are moneys that have been paid in order to meet costs. If they were not appropriated through this bill tonight, they would have to be paid through the Treasurer's advance—a far less transparent process than the opportunity to debate it through a bill, truncated though the time for debating the bill is. But that is the reality. The moneys would simply have been paid through a Treasurer's advance.


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