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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1061 ..


Debate resumed from 23 June 1998, on motion by Ms Carnell:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (3.00): Mr Speaker, with her customary modesty and glibness, the Chief Minister has described the vision of her budget as "clever and caring". It certainly is clever in political terms, and it shows that Mrs Carnell cares very deeply about something - about her political career. But its cleverness is very short-sighted. It suffers from two fundamental and fatal deficiencies. First, it is built on foundations of fairy floss. According to the Chief Minister, the ACT is suddenly going to start performing like an Asian tiger economy of the 1980s. Quite simply, the growth predictions underpinning this budget are fantasy. They are nothing more than a cruel hoax perpetrated on the people of the Territory to shore up the Chief Minister's credibility.

These fanciful growth assumptions have little to do with the reality of the Territory economy or the economic cycles. Rather, this budget seeks to synchronise the political cycles to suit John Howard and Mrs Carnell. These optimistic growth projections are designed to buy time for the Government. The Chief Minister, belatedly, has understood that, instead of feeling the power, Canberrans have been feeling the pain. They have been feeling the pain of a concerted assault, based on a narrow ideological agenda, by the Liberal Party. Like Banquo's ghost, John Howard is not present in this chamber today; but this budget bears his indelible fingerprints.

It is all very well to say that this budget could have been worse; that, having softened up the media with leaks about a horror budget, Mrs Carnell should be applauded for inflicting only a little bit more misery on our community. But that ignores the scorched-earth policy of the last two Federal budgets. The Liberals' fiscal policy has been the political equivalent of the neutron bomb: It destroys all life and commerce and leaves the empty buildings standing. So, excuse us on this side of the chamber for not thinking that we have never had it so good, because this budget merely finetunes the damage already inflicted.

Second, Mr Speaker, this budget is a "caring" budget only in the way that passengers left stranded on the Titanic were not charged for their last drinks. This budget marks a pause, a period of political consolidation, for the Liberals prior to a new assault on the Federal Public Service by Howard and Costello. That is the deceit lurking behind all the exaggerated growth numbers and the phoney reassurances from Mrs Carnell. She is in on the joke with her Liberal mates: Clear the decks for a Federal election by kidding everyone that the worst is over and that prosperity is just around the corner. As usual, Mrs Carnell is having a bet each way. If she actually believes these growth numbers, she must be going to finally do what anyone in her position with a conscience would do, and what we are all going to do: Vote for a Federal Labor government.

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