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This Liberal Government came to office on the promise of consultation. Of all the confidence tricks it has perpetrated on the community, this is the most hollow. Far from being consultative, it has shown itself to be secretive, dictatorial and duplicitous. The only people whom Mrs Carnell consulted about this budget were her own like-minded personal advisers and consultants who were paid large sums of money for their opinions - opinions the Government had selectively purchased so that it could renege on its election promises. The Canberra community deserves better than this.
Recently, Mrs Carnell and her Ministers invited the media - or some of them, I should say - to an expensive lunch to duchess them into selling the Government's line. Having seen the product, I think it is going to need a lot more than Narooma oysters and fine wine to make this budget acceptable to the Canberra community. It has been misled about the financial position of the ACT. It has been the victim of an attempt to deceive it into believing that Standard and Poor’s were too incompetent to understand our true financial position. Does anybody seriously believe that, under a Labor government, when this international credit rating agency awarded the ACT its highest AAA rating it was duped? The Canberra community is being told that community facilities are an extravagance that will be provided only when the money is in the bank, and it has been given no idea when that might be.
If the Greens and the Independents in this Assembly support this budget uncritically, then they too will have to share the responsibility for the pain that Canberrans experience. In 1990, Mr Kaine presented a budget that led to division and upheaval in our community. If this disastrous budget meets the same fate, the Liberals should not be surprised. They should not be surprised because the community will be seriously affected by the slashing of services brought about by the 9 per cent cut revealed in this budget. The fraud in this case is that Mrs Carnell has refused to tell the community precisely what those cuts are going to be, or anything whatsoever about those cuts. There is no need for the community to suffer as it is going to suffer under this budget. There is a better way, and the tragedy is that it was not followed.
MS HORODNY (3.29): This is the first budget the Greens have been involved with as members of the Legislative Assembly. While we have not had to enjoy or endure, depending on one's perspective, the task of creating a budget, the task of understanding it, especially for newly elected members like us, has been and continues to be a very steep learning curve. What looked bad yesterday in terms of budget numbers appears okay today when other measures are factored in, and vice versa. It is becoming increasingly clear to us that only with intense scrutiny will anybody really know what this budget is all about and exactly how different it is from budgets previously handed down by the Labor Party. Whether we agree or disagree with the contents and rationale of Mrs Carnell's budget or its economic rationalist perspective, we do acknowledge and respect the enormous amount of work that you and your staff and the rest of the Government have put into these documents.
There is a view held by many conservative political theorists that government budgets are sacrosanct, that governments ought to be allowed to govern, and that oppositions and crossbenchers should stand on their principles and oppose, but at the end of the day pass the Bill with minor amendments, if any, and certainly no amendments to the bottom line.