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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (9 March) . . Page.. 456 ..



At the moment, there is an almost obscene competition between the two major parties in the New South Wales election campaign to come up with the biggest law-and-order stick to deal with these problems. This is indicative of what is wrong with a focus on short-term responses, which may save money but which do not address the underlying issues. We could end up like the United States if we continue down this path, where there are basically fortresses for the well-off to live in and, despite a rising GDP, the society is fragmented and violent.

I believe that, as members of this Assembly, we have a clear responsibility to ensure that the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community are supported and that they have equal access to services which are important for quality of life. The liberal ideology which we hear used as a rationale for an increasing user-pays approach to services is that it is about choice and about individual empowerment. It is not. It is about choice for those who can afford it. It is about empowerment for those who are already strong. It is not about equity and it is not about fairness. As an elected representative in this place, I am prepared to be involved in genuine, inclusive processes regarding budget decisions, which this debate is not. But I also will maintain my right to stand for the values of the Greens and represent those who elect me to this place.

I totally reject the Chief Minister's latest attempt to silence criticism by saying that we have no right to demand particular areas to be considered in budgets unless we can say exactly where the money is coming from. It is offensive to the concept of parliamentary processes to suggest that we cannot or should not use our positions to voice the concerns and values of our constituents.

MR RUGENDYKE (4.37): Mr Deputy Speaker, let me say from the outset that I was curious about the Government's motives behind putting this motion before the Assembly, but I am prepared to play the game. On the face of it, I considered this to be a debate that the Assembly should have. But immediately I had to question the Government's objectives. Approaching my first anniversary in the Assembly, I have to say that cynical thinking is playing a much more active role than I first imagined and my cynical mind is working overtime. I would be disappointed if this was merely a forum for clocking up a few political points.

Upon reading Ms Carnell's media release on the motion on 15 February, it would appear difficult to assume otherwise. The heading on the release read: "Labor and Independents get the chance to say how they would fix the budget". We certainly are not going to fix the budget in this debate today. If that is what the Government says the object of this motion is, they are, to put it bluntly, just kidding themselves. They would be making a very ordinary attempt to bluff the community into sharing the responsibility for formulating the budget.

Before going any further, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to outline what I believe this debate is all about. In my view, it is not about the upcoming budget; it is about the entire budget process. If the Government wants to share responsibility, the budget process has to be reformed. If the Government just wants a vehicle to blame the rest of the Assembly for its own budgets, the system has to change. Whatever the Government has up its sleeve for the upcoming budget, this debate today cannot be considered as meaningful

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