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Sydney and Melbourne. Access to international air services can be facilitated through the provision of fast train services. A fast train service will give residents of Canberra better access to international air terminals than many people living in Sydney and Melbourne have.
The Greens are supportive of community initiatives that seek to involve residents, business and community groups in building a better Canberra. Initiatives such as that proposed by the residents of Childers and Kingsley Streets for an ecological village, which would combine residential and community facilities in that area, could be of great value to the city as well as being a significant tourist attraction. The Greens will support change in this city as long as change includes commitment to ecological sustainability. May I remind those who think primarily and solely in terms of economics that there is no economy without environment.
MR KAINE (10.41): Mr Speaker, a week ago the Chief Minister tabled a blueprint for Canberra for the next six years. It is a forward-looking program. It has been set out at this stage only in skeletal form, but it is a program which the Liberal Party intends to implement in all of its detail. It is a program that is long overdue. For six years now, except for the 1½ years when there was an Alliance Government, we have seen a Labor Government procrastinate. It did not attack any of the major, fundamental problems that confronted the Territory when self-government was granted six years ago. The issues are the same today as they were then - money, planning and health. Those issues, which are on the agenda today, are the same issues that were on the agenda when we were granted self-government six years ago. For 4½ of the last six years the Labor Government sat on its hands, talked about doing many things, and did little.
Why are we worrying today about the next budget if the Labor Government has been such a great financial manager for the last six years? The answer is that they were not good financial managers. They did not manage the budget at all. Once a year they sat down and thought, “What can we do in the coming year that will involve the least trouble, that will bring the least acrimony from the community on what the Government is doing and that will cost us the smallest possible effort?”. That is what our budgets have been. They crow about the AAA rating that they got from Standard and Poor’s, and they put that forward as though it were an endorsement of their financial management. Mr Speaker, that is a furphy. It does nothing of the kind. The Standard and Poor’s rating talks about the amount of indebtedness of this community. That is what it refers to.
There is still a high Standard and Poor’s rating because of deliberate distortion of our budgetary circumstances from year to year. The former Chief Minister and Treasurer claimed year after year that they were great financial managers. “We kept our borrowing down”, she said. How did she keep her borrowing down? She kept her borrowing down by spending every cent of reserve money that we inherited on the day of self-government. In the third budget for the ACT, produced by the Follett Government in 1991-92, we had $53m in reserve money that was released from the Commonwealth because I asked the then Prime Minister to release it. We had about $25m in reserves in our own Treasury. In that one year alone that brilliant Chief Minister and Treasurer spent the lot. Then she said, “Aren't we good, because we did not borrow anything?”. Mr Speaker, spending your reserve moneys, blowing them in one year, is, in my opinion, financial vandalism.