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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 1035..


MR CORNWELL

: Treasurer, can you advise when you are going to tell the Totalcare workers of their fate, and will you table the Treasury review in this Assembly? I do not want your caucus motion, because I do not very much like things with blood on them. But please table the Treasury review.

MR QUINLAN

: The short answer to that is no. The Treasury report, as I explained in the answer to the original question, contains, in large part, information as to the contractual arrangements with Totalcare and the economic performance of Totalcare. Again, according to the theory of information osmosis, we would not want that information out there in the commercial world. The world at large now knows that Totalcare is to change, and you can bet your boots that various entrepreneurial spirits out there are already making plans to optimise their position in relation to that change. We do not really need to supply those people with commercial-in-confidence information, which they would not provide to us in return.

Mrs Cross

: Mr Speaker, I have a point of order. Mr Cornwell's reference to "blood on your hands"could be considered an imputation.

Rural lessees-assistance

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Chief Minister. Farmers in the ACT are experiencing the same drought-related problems as farmers elsewhere in Australia-problems exacerbated, in many cases, by the bushfires that swept the territory in January. Can the Chief Minister tell the Assembly what assistance the government is offering rural lessees affected by both drought and fire?

MR STANHOPE

: This is a very important matter. As members are aware, the ACT was declared to be in drought on 20 November, 2002. While the declaration did not imply any direct assistance to rural lessees, the government recognises that the drought has worsened since that time and that, in January, a substantial amount of pasture and other assets were lost to the fire.

Sixty-one rural lessees suffered fire damage in January, and about 63 per cent of the rural land of the territory was burnt. It is estimated that between 3,000 and 4,000 sheep, 150 cattle and 35 horses were lost in the bushfires. As a result of the drought, the government offered to bring forward the kangaroo culling season, to help farmers suffering serious loss of stockfeed, and many took advantage of this offer.

The government acted promptly after the bushfires to offer further assistance. Rural lessees, for instance, were offered similar assistance to that which is available in New South Wales for cartage of fodder, stock and domestic water. Environment ACT set up a rural recovery team, headed by the rural senior project officer. The team is in close liaison with rural lessees, recording the extent of fire damage, providing advice on land management issues and acting as a one-stop shop for rural matters.

Through the bushfire business assistance package, the government is offering assistance to rural lessees whose business assets were significantly damaged in the fires, providing grants of up to $3,000 and interest subsidies on loans to eligible businesses. Environment ACT, in cooperation with Land and Property, identified some suitable land for grazing,


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