Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 22 November 2007) . . Page.. 3730 ..
The approved budget for Harrison primary school was $22,950,000. We have agreed to provide this additional funding, and we are doing it through a second appropriation, to allow for a number of tenders which came in over budget, most notably the landscaping tender. Through this we are ensuring that we have constructed what I am sure every parent and every visitor to Harrison primary school would regard as perhaps the primary school par excellence in the ACT and Australia. You can go out and talk to the parents about it, and discuss with the department of education the waiting list and the number of parents who desperately want their children to go to this school. There has been a commitment by us to expend additional funds to ensure that the landscaping, the appearance and the amenity of this school match the excellence of the infrastructure and the educational fit out that is part and parcel of this wonderful school that the government is building at Harrison.
So, yes, in the tight market that we have, in an environment where unemployment is 2.5 per cent, where we see at every turn instances of the fact that we have the strongest and fastest growing economy in Australia, there is enormous competition for resources, including labour. Construction prices have gone through the roof, as has every other aspect of trying to construct or run a project. We see it in the construction of the Alexander Maconochie Centre; we see it in the construction of our schools, just as the private sector does in all the work that needs doing. (Time expired.)
MR SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mrs Dunne?
MRS DUNNE: Treasurer, why has your government been unable to more accurately forecast the cost of capital works projects?
MR STANHOPE: There are a whole range of major capital works projects underway in the ACT. In fact, there is an unprecedented level of capital work. I think we exceeded $250 million in capital works in the last financial year. That is the highest level of capital works expenditure in the history of self-government—a level of capital expenditure that is possible as a result of the strength of the budget, our balance sheet and the bottom line: the fact that we have just returned our sixth consecutive surplus.
This is a level of capital expenditure that could not have been undertaken by the Liberal Party. They delivered four consecutive deficits, to the tune of around $800 million. They could not possibly have sponsored a capital works program or budget of this order.
We need to take these things into account. One of the reasons that there are so many capital projects in the first instance—consuming somewhere in the order of $250 million over the last year—is the strength of our balance sheet, our bottom line, our budget: the fact that it is sustainable into the future, that we have done the hard work, we have taken the hard decisions, we have got a budget that is now truly sustainable. So we are able to invest in the infrastructure that has been ignored and neglected.
It has to be said that one of the reasons we are investing $350 million in public education is that we are taking up some of the slack of the shortfall which occurred as