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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 122..


MR SESELJA (continuing):

Civic is a good idea."I look forward to someone from the government clarifying that-that they support this project, that they think it is a good idea. But I do not think that we will hear that. I think what we are likely to hear in this debate are broad statements about the sustainable transport plan, and of course that has been flagged by the amendment that is coming.

To conclude, the opposition continue to oppose this project. We are calling on the government to scrap it. We are also calling for them, if they refuse to scrap it, to come out and tell the community, if it is going ahead, when it will go ahead, how much it will cost and what kind of community benefit there will be. We have heard the Treasurer say he does not think it will happen in this term; that is a significant shift. We have heard the shift between "it's likely to go ahead in 2006"and "it's just reserving land".

We also need answers about this policy shift. When did this policy shift occur, and why in the midst of this has $6 million-certainly $2 million to date, or thereabouts, and another $4 million to come-been spent on the kind of things that appear way too detailed for simply a project to reserve land for possible future use for some form of public transport? We need answers on this, the people of the territory deserve answers on this, and the government need to say what they are going to do on this project and let us in on their thinking.

Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 12.29 to 2.30 pm.

Questions without notice

Budget-government expenditure

MR SMYTH: My question is directed to the Chief Minister. Recently on the Chief Minister's talkback program you stated that the ACT was "living beyond its means". Over the past three budgets, ACT government expenditure has increased by an average of 6.5 per cent. Why has the ACT government lived beyond its means by increasing spending by 6.5 per cent a year over the past three budgets?

MR STANHOPE: It is fair to say that the main reason for the increase in expenditure by ACT governments over the last four years was to catch up in a whole range of areas that were grievously neglected by the Liberal government in the previous seven years.

We can immediately go to an area that I know is very embarrassing for the Leader of the Opposition-that is, the previous government's expenditure on mental health. Each of us in this place knows the implications, the effect and the impact of the traditional levels of funding of mental health by the Liberal Party in government. When we came to government four years ago, the ACT, the wealthiest community on a per capita basis, expended on mental health by far the least of any jurisdiction in Australia. If there were one area of government service delivery that you would expect any government of any political persuasion or colour to give priority to, it would be mental health.

We are now suffering the consequences nationally as a result of under-funding and a lack of commitment, in both a policy and resourcing sense, by governments in a whole range


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