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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1083 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

Even the budget papers leave out the expected unemployment rate in the future in the Australian Capital Territory. Six hundred people have left town in the last two months. They are sick of it. Have a look at the latest unemployment figures - 600 people have left town.

Mr Smyth: Unemployment figures do not record who leaves town.

MR BERRY: They talk about the population. The population is the people that live here. Six hundred of them have gone. They are not hanging on sky hooks somewhere. Mr Speaker, this Government has done nothing for the ACT economy, except create unemployment. Of course, we now have a system of business welfare that has been put in place, instead of expenditure in a direction that would properly create activity and jobs. People are voting with their feet. They could not feel the power, and they know that the Liberals do not care.

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member's time has expired. I call Mr Rugendyke.

Mr Quinlan: He is sitting down.

MR RUGENDYKE (4.25): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I did stand up a couple of times earlier; but this time I forgot.

Mr Kaine: You have the floor, Dave.

MR RUGENDYKE: Thank you, Mr Kaine. On the whole, I am reasonably comfortable with the manner in which the Government has tackled this budget and the direction in which it sees the ACT heading on the economic front. On the one hand, it is a safety-first budget; but, on the other, it places enormous faith in the prospects of our city's growth from here on in. I regard myself as a fairly positive sort of person and I like to focus on positive aspects in our community. I would enjoy nothing more than seeing the budget's growth projections come to fruition. But there is a major difference between optimism and reality, and I truly hope, for the sake of morale in this city, that this confidence is realised.

The Government regularly points to the $150m operating loss when the topic of expenditure is raised. I am not critical of the Government's desire to balance the books so that this problem is not compounded and so that it does not become a problem for our grandchildren. I am aware of our responsibility to live within our means and to spend wisely. But I also believe that the operating loss should not be pulled out at any convenient moment to use as an excuse to justify budget cuts or hikes. I take heart, though, from the fact that the Government has pinpointed long-term projects in job development and tourism to stimulate growth.

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