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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2464 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

and slamming this budget in every way possible, then to take action which effectively has allowed the Government to go ahead with its cuts. We all know why they did that, but they lost their opportunity to show that they care more than the Liberals about listening to the views of the Greens and the Independents.

Mr Speaker, the budget for urban services is not one which will make the community feel any reason to trust that the Government is committed to social justice and the environment. It is, however, a clear demonstration of a commitment to achieve short-term economic goals.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (10.49): Mr Speaker, we have heard an awful lot of comment about the whole library situation, most of which has been totally untrue. As in other areas, it is easy to spout information that is incorrect or that talks about half the figures. I think it is important for this debate to put some of the facts on the table. The facts are that library staff have increased steadily over recent years. They have increased steadily at a time when the population in the ACT has increased only very marginally. So any comment that somehow, as Ms Tucker said, the libraries have been cut and cut and cut again and they have nowhere to go is simply untrue.

In fact, the budget allocation for the year 1991-92 was $5.406m. The next year it was $6.161m. The next year it was $6.580m. Last year, 1994-95, it went down from $6.580m to $6.310m. That was a reduction of over $200,000. In fact, it was quite substantially over $200,000. That was under Ms Follett. What happened that year when there was a reduction? Did the libraries look at ways that they could become more efficient? No, they just overspent their budget by $610,000. They just blew their budget by very close to 10 per cent. This year the amount that has been allocated is $6.181m. That means that the amount allocated has gone down from $6.310m to $6.181m -a reduction of about $150,000.

It is interesting to look at the blow-outs in library budgets over those years as well. In 1991-92 the blow-out was $750,000. The next year it was $119,000. The next year it was $138,000. Last year, as we have already spoken about, it was $610,000. There is obviously a problem here. We have to find much more efficient ways to run our library system. We have to find ways that we can provide services to the community without those sorts of blow-outs every year, blow-outs that seem to have occurred regardless of which government has been in power.

Questions have been asked about whether we will maintain services. Yes, we will maintain services. We have said quite definitely that we will maintain services. We will maintain services by making sure that minimum staffing levels are available at all times and that all categories of library materials are covered in our purchasing program. We will make sure that existing sites and opening hours remain unchanged, and also that the access and equity unit is unaltered. So all of the issues that have been raised, all of the questions that have been asked in this house tonight, are covered categorically in our approach to libraries.

But what we will be doing is instituting a number of changes, particularly in the technology area - ways to check out books, ways of approaching our temporary contracts, the way we operate - - -

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