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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (19 May) . . Page.. 353 ..

Mr Humphries: You are straying slightly from the subject of the Federal budget, Mr Stanhope; so I point that out to you.

MR STANHOPE: It is all about the budget. Actually, Mr Humphries, it is all about trying to find any excuse, no matter how ludicrous the excuse, to justify the fact that a major spending promise is about to be broken. If we can visit some of that upon the Commonwealth, well and good. But that is what it is all about. It is all about justifying the breaking of promises and actually visiting upon the Commonwealth because they have been horrible to us, too.

I will conclude my remarks by referring again to the health budget. At least the Minister and the hospitals are engaged in negotiations with the VMOs. I am heartened to see the chief executive of the Department of Health indicating that the Government is actually making some attempt to claw back the moneys that will be paid to VMOs basically to the level or to the formula that Labor sought to introduce when it was last in government - a formula, an approach, which was simply overturned by this Government when it came to power. I wish the Government well in that, I must say. But the scepticism I have about it relates to the enormous cut in public education that all jurisdictions in Australia have suffered under this budget. I guess I am just expressing a fear I have, and I think the people of Canberra share, about this Government not being able to keep the health budget within the constraints that it set out to meet, and its incapacity to do so in the future as a result of the shellacking which we have taken at the hands of the Federal Government in terms of Medicare funding and public health funding.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (4.12): I want to make a few comments on the Federal budget. I would argue that comments made on this side of the house have a little more credibility when it comes to criticism of matters such as the Federal budget, in that we have demonstrated quite clearly over time - and the Chief Minister demonstrated again today - that we are prepared to be fair-minded and balanced in the comments we make about the performance of the Federal government, particularly of the Federal Coalition Government. You can go back in the public record and search all you wish and you will not find an occasion when those opposite have criticised the performance of a Federal Labor government. You simply will not; it does not exist. The problem with people who see it as their corporate goal to advance the cause of the Labor Party, whether it is the ACT Labor Party or the Federal Labor Party, ahead of any local interest is that it is almost inevitable that the comments they make will be somewhat jaundiced. That is the same with this budget, Mr Speaker. It is a budget which has good things and bad things in it for the ACT and we need to be prepared to be balanced about those comments if we are honestly to educate people about what this budget actually means.

An article in the Canberra Times just after the budget, headed "National capital has reason to be upbeat", laid out very well that there are some very positive elements of this budget that you cannot get away from. The very substantial investment by the Federal Government in a number of projects which, perhaps only incidentally but nonetheless very directly, benefit the people of Canberra, particularly job creation in Canberra, simply cannot be overlooked. The exercise on Russell Hill, for example, is a very substantial capital investment which has tremendous consequences for the viability of the building industry in the ACT and, therefore, the health of the ACT economy generally,

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