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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 30 June 2010) . . Page.. 2928 ..

We noted the Chief Minister’s sensitivity. He mentioned at the budget breakfast—and he will forgive me if I have misquoted him, but I believe his words were to the effect that it is easier to close a school than to get rid of a tree. Mr Stanhope would know because he has done both now; Mr Smyth has touched on it. He is the tree killer and the school killer. He has got rid of the schools and he has got rid of the trees. He tells us that it was a far easier process to get rid of the schools, to rip the heart out of those school communities. Now he is going down the path of getting rid of the trees as well—the trees from our suburbs. No-one would be better qualified to make that judgement about which one is more difficult—killing a school or killing a tree. Mr Stanhope has form on both and he tells us that, in fact, the trees are much harder than the schools and the school communities.

Mr Assistant Speaker, we will not be supporting this amendment from Ms Le Couteur because it effectively endorses the government’s “do nothing” approach. The government is ripping $11.2 million out of the budget, the street tree replacement program. The amendment endorses it. That is why Mr Stanhope appeared so happy with it. He appears so happy to go along on his merry way. This amendment from Ms Le Couteur endorses that. For that reason we will not be supporting it.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.14): Mr Seselja has brought this motion forward today because we, the Canberra Liberals, want to dwell on the priorities in relation to trees in the ACT. Mr Seselja made the point that the government is well and truly out of touch on a whole range of issues when it comes to making decisions about where they should spend Canberrans’ money.

As was said by members of the opposition in this place last night, we believe that if you are going to be spending money on trees and the choice is made in the context of a constrained budget, you should be looking at the must haves rather than the can haves. It is interesting here today to hear Mr Stanhope and particularly the Greens running this narrative: “What would the Liberals do about the arboretum?”

It is true that like the Greens and like Dr Foskey, particularly Dr Foskey, the Canberra Liberals opposed the introduction of the arboretum. We considered that the $10 million allocated in the 2004 budget was an inappropriate use of money, and when you consider the amount of money that was going to be spent on land management, and tree planting in that budget, we thought it was an inappropriate use. We have always had the view that the arboretum fell into the can have proposition rather than the must have.

Ms Le Couteur and the Greens have tried to blur the issues and say, “Look, there are a whole lot of other tree planting initiatives as well, and we should not get hung up just about the urban tree renewal program.” Yes, there are other tree planting initiatives. They include things like planting radiata pines on the other side of the Murrumbidgee in our forest areas, along with a whole lot of other projects around regeneration after the fires—a whole lot of things. But the thing that we know is that the urban trees across Canberra, whether they are in streets or parks or pocket parks or walkways, are under threat because of their age, and particularly they have been put under threat because of the changed climatic conditions and the drought that we have been living through.

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