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It is encouraging to see that some funds have been set aside to deal with the problem of weeds in the ACT, but it really needs a much greater commitment than is currently budgeted for. There are all sorts of areas where money could be spent to protect and enhance our environment, but instead this Government has engaged itself in such initiatives as spending over $8m on tearing down perfectly good buildings at Acton Peninsula. What a ridiculous waste of resources! The Government has not even come up with the money to build a museum.
So, what about the revenue side of the budget? Are taxes an unequivocal social ill? The Greens do not think so. Taxation, like all other economic policies, should be used to meet broader social and environmental objectives. The ACT has the highest per capita income in Australia. In the main, it is a well-off community that has the opportunity to provide first-class services and a good safety net. There are some good revenue measures in this budget, such as tip fees and increased gambling taxes. It is a pity that the increased revenue from gambling is being used to fund elite sports programs. If this revenue must be tied, we believe that it would be much more appropriate to use the revenue for counselling, greater support for families of gambling addicts, and education programs. We welcome moves to reduce taxes on employment but believe that this should be at least partly financed with increased resource taxes. As well as increasing the petrol franchise levy, we believe that the ACT should introduce an energy tax for the non-transport sector. There are strong economic and environmental grounds for an energy efficiency levy. Apart from providing a small price incentive to improve energy efficiency, at least part of the revenue raised could be used to finance energy efficiency programs or alternative finance schemes especially for lower income households.
The agenda this Government is setting for the ACT means that even after the Estimates Committee there will probably still be unanswered questions. One of the key questions is: How will managers manage over the next three years? How will they make the hard decisions about where to allocate shrinking resources? Without comprehensive longer-term policy objectives, the task of managers is going to be even harder. Our managers are being given the task of determining social, environmental and economic priorities to meet our financial objectives, without a clear vision in any of these areas. Maybe our economy will look good in three years; maybe it will not.
The Greens will be scrutinising this budget to see not just what our economy will look like but also what our environment and our community will look like. Human or environmental considerations should not and need not be subordinate to the supposed greater good of the economy. There is not going to be a disaster today or tomorrow or in the next three years; but we cannot go on the way we are going, and it is no use fiddling around the edges. We need a different type of economy, an economy where business and commercial interests serve the people, not the managers at credit rating agencies and not the multinationals. Finally, we need an economy that enhances and protects our environment.
MR OSBORNE (4.01): The pressure is on today, Mr Speaker. I will try not to put you to sleep; I know that the last two speakers have. You will be pleased to know that my speech goes for only eight pages and it is in big writing. I have to say from the outset that I am a little disappointed that the Government is not here to listen to me. I will try to be here on time when the budget is voted on.