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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (4 May) . . Page.. 1219..


MR BARR (continuing):

disclosing the full information. That is fair and reasonable and that is exactly what I will be doing. I believe that if we are to genuinely engage in a debate about the future of public education, it needs to be done in an open and transparent way. We need to address the fundamental issues that the system faces at the moment, and that is that there is not equity across the system, nor is there the highest possible quality outcome for students that we can deliver. I believe we can deliver better, and I am seeking to achieve that.

Budget

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is to the Chief Minister and Treasurer. Chief Minister, yesterday the Canberra Times reported a claim by the opposition leader that the territory faced the prospect of a budget blow-out to a deficit of $390 million in 2008-09. Is that in fact the case?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Mr Gentleman for the question. It is an important question because of the levels of anxiety that the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition, the deputy leader and the Liberal Party have caused and the extent to which the allegations were essentially based on rumour—Chinese whispers—completely unsubstantiated and, as it transpires, completely untrue. I must say today I do feel for the journalist who managed to get what he thought such a scoop on the front page, with the hysterical headline that led the story. In my eight years in this place I have observed from time to time the pups that have been sold to journalists around the place. But I do not think any bigger pup has ever been sold to a journalist than the one that the Leader of the Opposition delivered in this particular instance.

The essential allegation, as we know and have debated, was that the midyear outyear operating budget deficit for the year 2008-09 of $16.8 million was set to explode to $390 million. The mind boggles at a suggestion such as that—that a midyear review operating deficit of $16.8 million would, in the space of three months, balloon to $390 million. It is false; it is completely false. As I said yesterday, were I not in such a sensitive mood, I would have described the allegation rather more bluntly and colourfully but in a way that would have been inconsistent with the standing orders and the protocols of this place. But let us not be under any misapprehension: I used the polite description of "misleading, false, untrue", but at its heart we all know what it was.

It reminds me, of course, of what I understand to be the first rule of politics within the Liberal Party—a rule book written, I understand, on the basis of advice from Idi Amin. It says: "Liberal Party rule book. Rule 1: if you're going to tell a lie, tell a whopper."

Mr Stefaniak interjecting—

MR STANHOPE: "Liberal Party rule 2: if you paint yourself into a corner and you decide to lie to get out of it, refer to rule 1."

Mr Stefaniak interjecting—

Mrs Burke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mrs Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.


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