Page 3343 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022

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In the federal election campaign there was a stack of discussion about this housing debt. The summary of this discussion, if you could put it into a couple of sentences, was: “The Liberals don’t care about people and Labor does.” That was the summary. The summary of the discussion was that if you change the government, and if the caring people are in charge, it is a foregone conclusion that this debt will be waived. It turns out that that is not the case. Despite all of the grandstanding from Senator Pocock, despite all of the rhetoric about the utopia that Canberra would become once we got rid of Senator Seselja, it turns out that nothing has changed.

This is truly remarkable and unacceptable, and it goes to the long-running behaviour from Labor and the Greens of saying something and then turning around and doing something completely different. While in opposition, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher was scathingly critical of the Morrison government for not having waived the ACT’s historic housing debt. Senator Katy Gallagher actually campaigned, during the federal election campaign, for the feds to waive that debt. Senator Gallagher said in estimates on 22 October 2019, to Senator Seselja, in respect of the waiving of this debt: “You’re in a position of power. You get to sign it off.” That is what she said. The Chief Minister, also in October 2019, said:

I would observe that it is an odd state of affairs when a crossbench senator from Tasmania can achieve more through Liberal Government than an ACT … senator who is a member of the government executive as an assistant minister …

That is from Mr Barr. He was absolutely incensed that Senator Seselja, as an assistant minister, could not achieve an outcome. Now that Senator Gallagher is the finance minister, now that Mr Albanese is the Prime Minister, now that Senator Pocock is in place, it would be unthinkable that this debt would not be waived. Then there is this. As Labor’s finance minister, Senator Katy Gallagher said, on 12 October this year, that the federal government is “not in a position” to waive the territory’s $98.3 million debt. You cannot trust them. You cannot trust their promises. Once again, they do not deliver.

Given the grandstanding that has occurred in this space, did you honestly expect that we would not call this out? Given the importance that this government has placed on putting this issue front and centre, how embarrassing is it when your mob have their hands on the steering wheel and they have not lived up to this strong rhetoric? My message to Senator Gallagher would be: how could you possibly believe that you could be so scathingly critical of Senator Seselja and the Morrison government in this space then do a complete backflip and not be called out on it? Mr Assistant Speaker, you could not make this stuff up.

Along with the narrative on the ACT’s infrastructure spend—let’s be honest about it—during the election you could be forgiven for believing that if the city removed Senator Seselja Canberra would be instantly awash with bright, shiny, new things. Even though those bright, shiny, new things were not specifically named. They were, in suggestion, promised. This is what would happen: “There wasn’t enough money being spent. Once we get rid of this bloke, it’s all going to change. Once we’ve got a new independent senator and a new government, it’s all going to change.”

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