Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 2168 ..
MS McRAE (continuing):
I come to perhaps the most serious of the recommendations. The cut to the education budget, to me, was one of the most damning bits of the Estimates Committee report - not because we called for the restoration of funding but because we were not satisfied that the Government had kept its promise. People may laugh and joke about politicians' promises, but when we on this side of the house were in government we kept our promises. We believe that clear promises were made. The evidence is in the report. We are not satisfied that those promises were kept, so there is an unprecedented recommendation that the Government consider the reallocation of funds.
We were similarly very disturbed about the lack of concern and planning for mandatory reporting of child abuse. I must give the Minister his due. Since the Estimates Committee report, Mr Stefaniak has had the sense to come back to say that he now has an interdepartmental committee, has helpers, and has put in $50,000 to help with mandatory reporting. This is a recognition that the Estimates Committee found evidence that not enough thought was being given to what was being done. We found in the area of mental health, of all places, that claims were being made for initiatives that were directly against the purpose of Commonwealth money, and we were deeply disappointed by the lack of concern and the lack of commitment.
What we found most disturbing was the lack of concern about the impact of budget cuts. There was a glib statement about social justice impacts and environmental impacts being shown throughout the budget papers rather than in a single document. We could not find that information. There was nothing to indicate how the people for whom government is most important were going to be protected, how their services were going to be maintained or how they fitted into the scheme of things. In my book there is no reason for government unless government can ensure that people without resources and without means - the frail, the young, the elderly, those with disabilities - are given equal standing in our community. This is where this Government has failed. In its rush to get to a bottom line, it has knocked aside all those who cannot come in running with it. It has said, "In three years' time we will have a balanced budget and no borrowings". Big deal if people with disabilities, the elderly, those without adequate income and the young have no services!
MR KAINE (11.05): I sometimes wonder whether members of this Assembly sit on the same committee. I noticed that the chair of the Estimates Committee kept saying "we". I do not agree with most of what she has just said. She was not speaking for me. I do not know whom she was speaking for. In fact, I am quite disturbed that, on one particular aspect of the Estimates Committee report, Ms McRae and other Labor members have deliberately misrepresented the opinion expressed by the committee and as reflected in one recommendation in particular. I will come to that in a minute. When we talk about what the Estimates Committee found, I think we should stick to the facts and not use this as an opportunity to fabricate a political attack on the Government that is not substantiated by the evidence that was presented to the Estimates Committee.
You have to understand that the Estimates Committee examined a budget that had been prepared by a government under very extreme circumstances. They had to prepare a budget in light of the fact that we had had four years of financial mismanagement. I have said this before. The previous Government set in place a series of budgets but then managed none of them. At the end of every year there were a lot of serendipitous and