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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 576 ..



moment, the quality of lifestyle that this city enjoys, it is incumbent on all of us to educate the electorate and the community about how we address those problems. I think that that means that we have to be careful and cautious about when we advocate the expenditure of new money and careful and cautious about turning aside from new revenue-raising options because those things inevitably are part of any budgetary equation.

We have seen very much in the last few years a pattern of attack on proposals to decrease expenditure - to save money, if you like - and proposals to increase levels of revenue raising from particular quarters, particularly new taxes. In those debates there has been considerable dispute with the Government about those things, and the Assembly on occasions has come quite close to rejecting the Government's approach on particular measures in those areas. I think the purpose of this debate is to emphasise that we cannot get away from the need to address those issues and to say that, if we do not like the revenue-raising measures adopted and we do not like the expenditure reductions adopted, we have to accept that the alternative may be making decisions which are at least as difficult in other areas of expenditure reduction or revenue raising. When people say that they absolutely oppose a debits tax, they absolutely oppose an emergency services levy or they absolutely oppose the idea of reducing outlays on education, health, oncology departments, school buses or whatever it may be, I believe that there is an obligation that falls on our shoulders at least to acknowledge that the decisions made have not been easy decisions but alternatives might be hard to come by.

Mr Speaker, let me comment on the contributions of others in this debate. The approach of the Australian Labor Party I will give credit to. It at least has been consistent throughout this debate. The Australian Labor Party has maintained that it is not the role of the Assembly to contribute to providing answers to these difficult questions. I think that there has been some admission that they are difficult questions and the formulations are not easy to come by, but they have said consistently that it is the Government's role alone to produce that and, in a sense, the Opposition's role to attack it if they disagree with it. Indeed, I think they have suggested that, in effect, the Government has to get support for its budget through the floor of the Assembly or it has to experience the loss of government. That is at least consistent. They have opted out of the debate, in effect. They have opted out of the substance of the debate, which is to identify and talk about the particular pressures on the budget. They have said that they do not believe that they should be part of that process. Mr Speaker, I have to say that I characterise that as a very conservative approach.

It was quite funny, I thought, to see the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Assembly quoting from House of Representatives Practice and citing historical precedents for this approach. They are the party of radicals. They are the party of change, of innovation, of doing things differently, and yet they are very happy to take a very insular view about the role of government to produce budgets and nobody else. But I give them credit for that. That has always been their view. They have not changed from that. I have to say that it has also been, to a large extent, the Liberal Party's view, but the Liberal Party has responded to pressures in recent years that suggest that we should change the way in which budgets are brought about.

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