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Ministerial Statement and Papers

Debate resumed from 2 May 1995, on motion by Mrs Carnell:

That the Assembly takes note of the papers.

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (4.54): Mr Speaker, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then after listening to the Chief Minister's speech on Tuesday I should be feeling very flattered. “We will bring down not a 12-month, but a three-year budget strategy”, Mrs Carnell stated, as if this were some profound innovation. Let me quote from another speech: “This strategy provides a sound financial framework for this Government's policy agenda over the next three years. The budget strategy is designed to enable the Government to implement its agenda”. That extract was not from Mrs Carnell; it was part of my statement to this Assembly nearly three years ago, in 1992, when I introduced the Labor Government's three-year budget strategy.

But there is one vital difference. When I introduced the Labor Government's three-year budget strategy it was in June, after a February election. On this occasion, of course, we have been told that we will have to wait until September for the Liberal Party's budget. That is a disgraceful and completely unnecessary decision. It is a decision that will leave business, community organisations and government agencies up in the air, with no ability to plan or to budget. It is a decision that will cost the Territory dearly in terms of business confidence and lost opportunities.

The community knows only that Mrs Carnell and her Government are hell-bent on reducing every decision to a dollar value. “There will be no new money for anything unless I can be shown that there will be a dividend”, Mrs Carnell has promised. What a grim philosophy! What a negative, Dickensian world Mrs Carnell promises to the people of this Territory who have such pride and reassurance in the services and resources that have been available to them! Mandatory reporting of child abuse, the care of the ageing and the care of the intellectually disabled are all reduced to a dollar value. Only yesterday we heard Mr Stefaniak, the Minister for Children's and Youth Services - and I would say that that is a misnomer - saying that because this Government refuses to provide sufficient money the Child Protection Unit will prioritise the cases that it handles and postpone the others. What a travesty of the meaning of community service! Heaven help those children in the ACT whose abuse will cost too much money to investigate.

Many of the positive proposals outlined in Mrs Carnell's speech are simply the completion of decisions already made by the Labor Government, and no-one should be surprised by this. They were good decisions - good for business, good for the social welfare of the Territory and good for government. I would like to remind the Assembly that the economy was managed so prudently by the previous Labor Government that it achieved the highest AAA credit rating from Standard and Poor’s. Even Mrs Carnell, to my knowledge, has not so far attempted to suggest that Standard and Poor’s was tricked into giving the ACT Government a rating higher than it deserved, although I would not put it past her at some point.

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