Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1532 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The funding of Environment ACT is also a cause for concern. There appears to be much more new environmental expenditure than what is allowed for in the environment budget, which means that other expenditure in Environment ACT will have to be cut by some $400,000 to accommodate any initiatives. I understand that these savings will come partly from contracting out the management of government horse paddocks and maintenance work in the recreation areas within the Murrumbidgee River Corridor.
The Minister for Urban Services yesterday disputed this figure by saying there was actually an increase of $800,000. Those members who are here might be interested in this. Yesterday when I asked Mr Smyth how all these environmental initiatives could be funded with only $82,000 extra, he said, "No, there is a difference of $800,000. You do not understand". But this figure of $800,000 is just the difference between last year's budget and this year's budget. They overspent. They actually spent $700,000 more, so we do not have an extra $800,000 to spend at all. The Minister does not seem to understand the budget himself. They spent $700,000, more, which leaves $82,000, unless you are going to tell me that in fact that $700,000 they spent last year is not going to be spent this year. We would like to know why that is and where it is coming from. We did ask where it is coming from and they said, "Some of it is from Commonwealth grants". We said, "Where is that in the budget?". They said, "We cannot find that. We will get back to you". We are waiting for that. That is quite interesting, because Commonwealth grants normally go to the National Heritage Trust or something.
I note that the Government is introducing a water abstraction charge which will raise $1.7m this year. While the reason given for this charge is that it is to reflect the environmental cost of supplying water, my concern is that none of this money is going back into management of the ACT's water catchments. At present this cost is borne by the Parks and Conservation Service, which has not had its budget increased. This charge is therefore nothing more than an extra tax with a green wash over the top.
It is interesting to note that there is no mention of PALM in the Minister's press releases or the budget summary booklet. Is this because PALM is going to suffer a significant cutback of some $1.5m, which the Government did not want to draw attention to? Or is it because PALM does not do planning anymore, just manages development, so there was no initiative that it could announce?
You just have to wonder about the Government's priorities in this budget. It is going to spend $340,000 on implementing the ACT greenhouse strategy, money which is not there and has to come from existing services, but at the same time it is going to spend $300,000, almost the same amount, annually to hold the FAI Car Rally so that racers can charge around Canberra in their greenhouse gas belching rally cars. They will get as much money to support them. It is also going to spend $550,000 so that people in their greenhouse gas belching motor vehicles can find their way down a single road called Northbourne Avenue to Civic.
I am also very concerned about the level of business welfare in this budget relative to money for social welfare. Four hundred and fifty jobs are being cut from the Public Service, yet we are spending $1m to build a business promotion centre and $775,000 to