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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1850 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

Urban Services staff, whether they be the staff of PALM or the staff from roads and transport. They work very well with those in the building and the development industry to ensure that we get on with the job. There is no recognition in what those opposite say of the fact that the majority of applications put to PALM are handled effectively and efficiently.

For instance, 17 per cent of all applications are processed in under five days, with a further 12 per cent being processed in under 10 days. The staff at PALM are to be congratulated for the way that they handle this. Sure, some projects do not go as well as they possibly could, but they make sure that the process is handled as quickly and as sensitively as it can. We have this continual harping; that if they talk about it long enough they will make it so. It is not true, Mr Speaker. Those opposite do not want to recognise that groups like PALM, the public servants in the Department of Urban Services, do a very good job.

Mr Speaker, Ms Tucker raised the issue of competition policy. It is quite interesting that we look at competition policy. One whole output of the Urban Services budget - I think it is output 1.6 - is devoted to competition policy, water, gas, electricity and milk. It is curious, Mr Speaker, that, for all the questions that I received in this place and all members of the Government received on competition policy, there was not a single question in the Estimates Committee on output 1.6.

Mr Stanhope: If you were relying on that Sheen report, there is no wonder about it, Minister.

MR SMYTH: Mr Stanhope interjects that if I was relying on something like the Sheen report it is no wonder. If the Sheen report is that flawed, if the Sheen report is that important, why were there no questions on such an important issue in the competition policy area? There were none.

Mr Corbell spoke largely on environmental issues. I thank him for his points. There is this constant harping on the figures relating to Tidbinbilla. The original figure was an estimate. It was based on a number of vehicles and a calculation that each vehicle at different times of the year carried a certain number of passengers. He dismisses the bushfire season and the number of total fire bans as being unimportant. He dismisses the 23 days. In some of the peak periods for the parks the parks were closed, such as over Christmas, over holidays, on weekends - times of extremely high usage for the parks - and on either side of those total fire ban days. The effects of the drought and the hot spell certainly did not go away. Perhaps it is as simple as that the weather was not as conducive for going to Tidbinbilla as it would normally be. We have work ahead of us and we are working towards making sure that the experience of Tidbinbilla is as excellent as we can make it. We have a world-class natural resource. What we will do through this budget is add to that a world-class visitor experience, Mr Speaker. It is very important that people know that this place is so close to Canberra, only 20 minutes away.

Mr Hargreaves, I think, started by saying it was not his role to come up with suggestions or solutions. That is curious because I heard Mr Berry say in an address to a group of school students the other day that they saw themselves as the alternative government and they were there putting their case. We hear nothing of this.

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