Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 30 June 2010) . . Page.. 2929 ..
Ms Le Couteur reminded me of the favourite word of the Labor Party. When things are big and important, they like to talk about a tsunami. The Minister for Health likes to talk about the tsunami in the health system, and the government has talked about the tsunami of decline in the street trees. And this is not just a one-off. It is not a one-off or an easy task. Everyone agrees that it is a difficult task. I recall standing in this place, I think probably in the budget debate last year, and reflecting upon how difficult this process would be and how much time would need to be taken to explain to our constituents why decisions need to be made and then to work with our constituents to collectively make decisions, perhaps on a street by street basis.
That will be difficult but, I am sorry, Mr Assistant Speaker, that is what they pay us to do—to make difficult decisions and to engage them on difficult issues—not to bulldoze over them; not to say, “Here we are, we are from the government, and we have made a decision and you are going to agree with it,” but to actually work with the community through this very difficult issue.
What we have seen in this budget is an almost complete de-funding of this program, for the life of the budget and the outyears. This cannot be swept away with, “Well we are waiting for the Commissioner for the Environment to come back with some advice and then we will crank it up again,” because, if that were the case, there would be money in the next financial year and the financial year afterwards. You could plausibly mount a case that we should perhaps put this on hold for this current financial year while we wait for the Commissioner for the Environment, but you cannot plausibly make that case when you look at the fact that this is de-funded into the outyears.
This is a minister who has lost interest in street trees, because he has his own particular tree garden that he is interested in. Mr Seselja has made light of the great big tree-killing plan of the Stanhope government, but we should not actually make light of it, because while ever we have a minister who has lost interest in the urban tree renewal program, while ever we have a minister who plays favourites with trees, the people of the ACT will be the losers. While Jon Stanhope is pouring $26 million of taxpayers’ money into Dairy Farmers Hill, $11 million is not being spent on the trees in the parks, on the streets, on the walkways of suburb after suburb after suburb in Canberra.
The minister talked about essentially what was chump change—about what they were going to do: $150,000 for the revegetation of Mount Painter and $200,000 for weed removal and tree renewal at Jerrabomberra. That is what he could refer to. It is interesting to note that, when I last asked this minister about weed removal at Jerrabomberra wetlands, he said that it could not be done, because if we took out the weeds there would be nothing left. So I do not know what it is; the minister needs to be a bit consistent here. But, in the context of what needs to be done, he talked about absolute chump change. And in the context of the fact that he has gutted a significant program, the offerings that he made today were risible and an insult to the people of the ACT.
And yes, it is a choice between trees. It is not a matter of de-funding the arboretum. It is saying, “Take the $11 million, which you have clearly taken out of the urban tree