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Among these Labor initiatives, which the Carnell Government now claims as its own, are the new adolescent ward and cardio-thoracic unit at Woden Valley Hospital; the draft 10-year tourism strategy; the staging of the 1997 Masters Games; the policy of precinct management; CIT courses for contemporary music and arts and craft industries; regional cultural planning; and the development of cultural precincts. The commitment to halve the amount of waste going to landfill by the year 2000, which the Chief Minister describes as “the national agreement”, as though she had achieved this, was in fact an ACT Labor election promise in 1992, which we were successful in having adopted nationally.
Other so-called new proposals are in reality only the further development of good Labor Government initiatives. Among these are the development of Canberra's sport and the related sports industries to take advantage of the 2000 Sydney Olympics; the introduction of accrual accounting; the expansion of the library service to provide a full range of community information services; the adoption of a whole-of-government approach to waste management; and the implementation of the findings of the Lansdown review. These are all important issues, and I emphasise that, without exception, they were all initiatives of the previous Labor Government. None of them required any delay in the budget. But I am not flattered by Mrs Carnell's speech. Like all right thinking and caring people, I am appalled by the picture that Mrs Carnell paints for the future of Canberra, because it is a picture dominated by the grey, soulless philosophies of those other icons so revered by the Liberals - Ronald Reagan, Jim Bolger and Margaret Thatcher.
Let us look first at the internal contradictions in the Chief Minister's speech. “If we are to get on top of health costs in the ACT”, Mrs Carnell said, “we will have to make some tough decisions”. What was her very first tough health decision? It was a memorable one. She caved in to the doctors - those grasping predators of the health profession who grumble that it is unfair to expect them to live on $143 an hour - and guaranteed that they would remain the highest paid doctors in any health system in Australia. If that is Mrs Carnell's idea of a tough decision, I shudder to think what the cost to the Territory is going to be when she sets about implementing all the other decisions that she is threatening to impose on the ACT. The exceptions, of course, are the poor, the intellectually disabled, the abused and the carers. With no bargaining power, they will be a pushover for a Chief Minister who has already, through her inept handling of the Acton Peninsula fiasco, given a new meaning to the word “pushover”.
Another quotation that I believe will come back to haunt Mrs Carnell was, “Corporatisation will not be the first step towards privatisation”. We have heard those words many times before from other socially conscious, caring conservative leaders - Reagan, Bolger, Thatcher and Kennett amongst them. They are harbingers of social disruption and misery - every one of them. They privatised community assets and services at great cost to those communities and accompanied by great pain and inconvenience to those least able to afford the invariable increases in costs that accompanied the privatisation. I will return to the privatisation debate in a moment. But let nobody be deluded; corporatisation in Mrs Carnell’s and the Liberals' philosophy is the inevitable precursor to privatisation.