Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (19 May) . . Page.. 349 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
I dare say that no-one in this house would share the view that anyone should lose his or her position or basic employment. The fact is that it happened, but the Carnell Government did not sit on its hands. It is creating opportunities by various means, bringing employment into the Territory, taking employment away from the concept set by Walter Burley Griffin whereby this Territory was to be the basis of employment and support for the Federal government of the day. The fact is that that has changed considerably as we move out of this century. The fact is that we are a thriving metropolis with something like 300,000 people outside our borders and 300,000 within our borders, giving a total of 600,000 people who depend on us for support in a number of areas.
Matters of significance have been touched on by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and by the Chief Minister today. Mr Quinlan said that the very fast train project has a long way to go, and that is a fact. But it has started and it will finish. It will depend on who wins the contract. As I understand it, the contractor will be announced later this year - towards the end of June or in July - and at that time work will start. As Mr Quinlan indicated, the project has a long way to go, but the work will start then. Indeed, a number of the tenderers have indicated that they intend to set up their headquarters in the ACT. That is jobs. Another aspect of the very fast train project which the Victorian Premier and his Transport Minister and, I understand, the current Federal Government have given a tick to is the fact that the link to Canberra will be only the first stage of the project and it will then go on to Victoria. That means more jobs and more prosperity, not just to Canberra but to the region.
Another matter that should be taken into consideration is the upgrading of Canberra Airport following the recent sale. By the way, sir, the handover will be on Friday week. It is intended by the successful tenderer for the new international airport to upgrade that facility by in the order of $58m to $59m in today's terms. The lifeblood of Canberra and the region is predicated on the very fast train and the upgrading of the airport; but we should not forget the network of highways that come into Canberra, and I compliment the Federal Government for undertaking a number of significant roadworks, including the expenditure of $17m on upgrading from Sutton to Watson to complete that part of the Federal Highway.
We can all speak doom and gloom if we want to and talk down the economy, but the realities are that when the Howard Government went into office there were serious financial problems and we all had to tighten our belts. Let us hope that we will not have to go through this again after the next Federal election. Let us hope that the Howard Government is returned in that election.
MS TUCKER (3.57): I want to make a few comments about the budget. I must say that, when I listened to Peter Costello croon about his wonderful budget and saw a number of commentators pat him on the back for his fantastic financial management, I wondered how long it would take the electorate to realise what a lot of nonsense it all was and throw the Howard Government out of office. How can we be proud of a budget, a key policy document, which does not acknowledge the tragedy of unemployment,