Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1836 ..
MR HARGREAVES (8.21): I rise on this occasion as a member new to this legislative process, but not without some experience in the process of public sector funding. I am aware that the Department of Urban Services is a very large department with a diverse range of services. I pay tribute to those who provide services under its auspices, but I would like to make some observations. It is not my role to propose alternative revenue-raising measures, nor alternative cost-cutting regimes. It is my role to point out to the Government where budget provisions impact adversely on the general public, and I will do so here tonight.
I noticed in my struggle through the related budget documents that there was no easy-to-read comparisons of financial performance for the year to come against previous years. Indeed, I had to wade, unaided by legions of departmental and OFM staff, through a number of documents to find any relevance at all. Perhaps there is a message to the Government and the message is this: Do not pontificate about transparency; just do it. Let us see some of it. You cannot see it if it is not transparent.
Mr Speaker, the budget reflects the operations of a department, and this one is a product of an ideology - an ideology of financial purity before service. We have seen major downsizing of the department, casualisation of the work force, and in some cases the elimination of services, such as some of those within the elements of CityScape. Those eliminations were, and always will be, those affecting general service officers on less than $30,000 a year, but do we see any significant eliminations at the SES level? Of course not. One SES officer equals at least four general service officers, but, I would argue, at less value.
We have seen this financial purity and reduction fetish manifest itself in a reduction of service. Parks are neglected, bins in parks are removed, road sign damage is not addressed, cleanliness in and around shopping centres is deteriorating, line marking on roads is neglected, and the road infrastructure itself is deteriorating, I suspect at a greater rate than would normally be expected after the deluges we have received recently. I do not think it is appropriate to blame the recent deluge of rain for the gradual deterioration of the roads. You have to ask how well the performance measures against best practice are faring. From looking at these documents here you would never know, but one suspects not that well.
An example of how this budget will impact adversely on the general public and how the portrayal of the reasoning behind increases in charges is fundamentally flawed or based on deception or falsehoods can be shown by the increases in vehicle registration charges. The average family in Australia has an annual combined income of less than $40,000 a year. They are not rich people. They cannot afford a second car, say a small Mazda, and they cannot afford a large gas guzzling four-wheel-drive vehicle, say a $65,000 Range Rover. They can only afford a middle-size second-hand car to carry a couple of adults and, say, three kids. This budget has significantly increased the registration fee on this type of family car.
Mr Speaker, pensioners have been given relief in this budget and I applaud the move, quite sincerely, but they have not been spared the road rescue levy of $15 or the road education levy of $1.50. Surely, this Government could have extended its legendary largesse to make these charges free also. I suspect that the amount of revenue affected