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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1678 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

The Chief Minister can accommodate that because these are projects that the Chief Minister thinks are desirable. Why does she think they are desirable? The only reason I can conclude that she thinks they are desirables is that they make excellent photo opportunities. I heard a response earlier this afternoon when somebody chided her about something. I was upstairs and I heard her say, "I have just put out a media release". That is the Government's response to everything - put out a media release. Do not do anything, but put out a media release. I suspect, Mr Speaker, that the Government speaks with forked tongue when, on the one hand, it talks about the operating deficit and the need to watch every dollar that we spend and, at the same time, it makes decisions that seem to be contrary to that.

One of the other things that I notice in the Chief Minister's own 1998-99 highlights - you would think that these would be important to the Government, would you not, the Chief Minister's highlights? - is maintaining value in the ACT's broad range of Territory-owned corporations and other government business enterprises. We have just seen the Milk Authority completely demolished; they are about to flog off ACTTAB, unless they see some common sense; and they have been undermining ACTEW for at least two years, to my knowledge. And they have the effrontery to include maintaining value in these assets in these papers. They talk them down constantly to the point where you wonder whether they have any value to the Government at all.

I find some major inconsistencies in this part of the budget, Mr Speaker, and I sadly regret the fact that the people within whose power it is to convey a message to the Government that this sort of logic in the development of the budget is not acceptable go weak at the knees when the opportunity presents itself. I think it is very sad indeed.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (5.38): As we debate this matter line by line it is relevant to reflect back to the Chief Minister's budget speech in which this was heralded as the "clever and caring budget". As one looks at the detail, and as one who has experienced the estimates process, we discover the extent to which it is not particularly clever and it is certainly not caring. I note that we are also debating the Government's response to the estimates report, Mr Speaker. I have attempted, during the pressure of the day, to read the response and I have had some difficulty. It is very difficult for us to debate the Government's response to the estimates report because we got it only today, which I think is a pity. A whole range of issues dealt with in the Estimates Committee would have benefited from our dwelling on them to some extent in terms of the Government's response. Therefore, we may not do the response the justice that it perhaps deserves.

In the context of the budget, in the context of this item and the investigation of the item that was provided to us through the estimates process, a whole range of issues highlight a major deficiency in this Government in its commitment to process. If nothing else, the estimates process certainly highlighted that in a whole range of areas. It was an incredibly valuable process and I think it is a pity that the Government has sought so strenuously to undermine and to seek to ridicule the estimates process.

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