Page 3300 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022

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MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (12.14): I would like to make a few closing comments as well. In closing the debate on the budget for this financial year, we have some observations from the Canberra Liberals. As usual, this is a budget big on promises and spin. But all Canberrans will get out of it is an underfunded health system, a neglected education system, potholes bigger than craters on our roads, long grass and a dangerous driving crime wave because our police have been let down by this Labor-Greens government.

Past performance is usually a good indication of future performance, so we know that the Labor-Greens government will fail to deliver, just as they have for the past two decades. This is because we see a tired Labor Party beholden to their junior coalition partner, the Greens, who are busy trying to have their cake and eat it too—happy to be in a power-sharing arrangement when it suits them, then go to great lengths to pretend to be independent and different when they need to take up one of their fringe issues. The result is incredibly bad governance, and Canberrans are paying the price for that.

On debt and deficit, thanks to this Treasurer’s financial mismanagement, the territory is currently in the worst ever financial position since self-government. Higher and higher taxes will have to be paid by future generations of Canberrans to cover debt repayments. In fact, by 2025-26 Canberrans will be paying half a billion dollars each year to service that debt.

This year it is only just a cool $335 million, which is more than the expenditure on the justice portfolio. It is more than the government spent on transport, on environment and climate change, on economic development or on housing. Imagine what a difference we could be making in all of these areas, along with health and education, if we did not have this $335 million in interest repayments escalating to half a billion dollars in three years time. Let me repeat that: half a billion dollars a year on interest repayments alone in 2025-26. Whilst the Chief Minister would like to blame COVID or Mr Fluffy or the global financial crisis for his financial troubles, the truth is that he is just not very good at managing Canberrans’ money—because that is whose money it was.

The Chief Minister, in the health area, started taking money out of our health system long before COVID, which is why COVID has been such a challenge for our hardworking doctors, nurses and medical staff. In fact, Labor and the Greens have consistently been responsible for the worst emergency department and elective surgery waiting times in Australia, year after year. The state of our health system is thus the result of deliberate long-term neglect and under-resourcing by this Labor-Greens government.

It is the same story in education. The minister blames an Australia-wide teacher shortage, but the reality is that the teacher shortage is now exacerbating the problems this Labor-Greens government created by underfunding our education system for the past decade. It means that here in the ACT our academic standards are now going backwards. Violence and bullying have become such an issue that WorkSafe ACT had to close a Canberra school to whole year groups earlier this year, and our school infrastructure has been so badly neglected that it has become dangerous.

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