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“contestability in the marketplace” - what a beauty! - “corporatisation”, or any other smart and confusing words, what we are talking about is blatant privatisation, that traditional plank of the Liberal agenda. Privatisation is the inevitable result, because the Liberals never have supported, do not support and until hell freezes over never will support, the public sector. We heard Mr Humphries on Tuesday, on the first working day of this Assembly, refer to good workers and bad workers. The good workers wear the stethoscopes; the bad workers are the public servants, in Mr Humphries’s view.
The Government may, at least for the time being, retain ACTION as a public body; but what has been declared already is that individual bus routes and, inevitably, the jobs that go with them will be provided by the private, not the public, sector. Try telling the bus driver or the mechanic, who used to be an ACTION employee and who is now forced to work for, say, Greyhound-Pioneer or Murrays - assuming that they are able to get a job at all - that privatisation has not happened. Lost conditions of service, probably lost access to the public service superannuation schemes and, most importantly, lost access to public service jobs in the Territory are not remote possibilities but highly likely probabilities; and the ultimate loser always is the entire community. Those who need public transport - the young, the elderly, people with disabilities, the disadvantaged - will no longer be able to participate fully in our community. There will be many losers, and they will certainly include the residents of the outer suburbs of Canberra, whether in Gungahlin or Tuggeranong, who will probably be left with no service at all. Even if the service does survive, it will inevitably be extremely expensive.
The current Deputy Chief Minister said last night, about bus fares, that on certain routes they may go up; and it is not hard to identify the areas. He also said, “We may even see mini-buses and more taxis driving around town”. He at least recognises the effect of the creeping privatisation proposed by this Government. “Do not worry about having a bus service”, Mr De Domenico says, “we will lay on more taxis”. Who cares that the cost of taxis will ensure that they are not even an option for many people? Certainly not this Government. Similar processes will take place in many other areas of community service provided by the Government - services which are provided by government because it is rightly the responsibility of government, in a caring, civilised society, to provide them. You need only to cast your minds back to 1990, and remember Mr Humphries's plan to close over 20 schools, to see the divisions that can be created in our community by conservative governments.
I have to turn now to the most depressing part of the Chief Minister's speech, because even more disturbing than what she included in her speech is what her speech does not include. What it does not include is any comfort whatsoever for those who deliver and those who need the myriad community services that are the hallmark of a humane, civilised community. Budget management should be a tool that assists government to deliver essential community services. It is a means to an end. When I delivered my Government's budget in 1992, I said of our strategy:
The Government does not see the annual Territory budget as an end in itself. The budget is a tool for the implementation of the Government's policies and programs. Our budgets will serve the interests of the community, not the reverse.