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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 11 February 2021) . . Page.. 492 ..

guide our direction and a cudgel of accountability which either party can use to prod the other into line.

It even offers the Canberra Liberals and the public in general a useful way to get in on the accountability action. If, at the end of our four years, they are able to truthfully say, “Here is what you promised, and you did not deliver,” that would be a fair point. I do not think that will happen. With this budget, we have already hit the ground running. There are many items in this budget that are solely there due to the Greens’ improved representation in the Assembly and its translation into the Labor-Greens parliamentary and governing agreement.

As the Treasurer has spoken about, this is a very unusual budget in a number of ways. For a start, this is the budget that is usually presented in June, coming eight months later due to COVID. The federal budget was delayed last year as well. This means that we will be having two full ACT budgets this year—again, rather unusual.

This budget is thus also a highly retrospective budget. Being more than seven months into the financial year already, much of the financial reporting and direction in it is not surprising. This is a budget update since the August 2020 update which presented the majority of the COVID support, recovery and stimulus commitments. This budget enables the next stage of support and stimulus for our community, as well as enabling many key parliamentary and governing agreement items to get underway.

Let me talk a bit more about COVID and the role of this COVID-19 recovery budget. The fact is that, just as the pandemic has hit different countries in extremely different ways—ranging from Australia and New Zealand almost eliminating it to the United States and the United Kingdom buckling beneath rampant, uncontrolled community transmission—COVID has been very uneven in its impact on individuals, families, communities and businesses right here in Canberra.

Some people have done very well, perhaps riding things out largely unaffected or even profiting in some cases. Others are seriously struggling. This budget tries hard to iron out some of this disparity, because in many cases the COVID toll has taken pre-existing inequalities and only made them worse.

Accordingly, this budget offers residential tenancy relief for landlords to reduce rents for those who have lost their jobs or had their work hours reduced, full rent relief on government properties for affected community organisations, and commercial rates relief for landlords who give discounted rent to their tenants. It has waivers on outdoor dining and liquor licence fees, in recognition of the toll COVID has taken on cafes, restaurants and pubs. There is additional mental health support, including specifically to young people, who have been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic. There is a $3.5 million COVID-safe tourism marketing program to market Canberra as a COVID-safe destination for domestic travellers, and matched funding to tourism businesses who undertake new investments that will result in a positive return to the territory. There are a range of new local jobs to help boost the career prospects of our citizens, as well as benefiting our wider economy.

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