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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1560 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

Mr Speaker, this is a budget that has not shown itself worthy of support. It has to go through a closer scrutiny process with the Estimates Committee. I look forward to an involvement in that from a member's point of view. I am not on the committee this year, but I will be involved in the process. I repeat my welcome of that opportunity to scrutinise this budget. I know that there are more holes in it than in Swiss cheese, but there is work to be done to uncover them. That is part of the scrutiny process that this Assembly provides. For heaven's sake, Mr Osborne, and others on the crossbench, do the scrutiny process justice. Treat it as a draft budget and treat it as if you really care for the community.

MR OSBORNE (9.59): All those words will come back to haunt Mr Berry at some stage, Mr Speaker. I look forward to the first Quinlan budget and I look forward to Mr Berry once again standing as, God forbid, a Minister and saying, "If you do not like it, just amend it. We will accept that. Amend our budget".

Mr Berry: Not necessarily accept it, but you have to cop it if it happens.

MR OSBORNE: So it is okay for them but not for us. Mr Speaker, I will be brief because, as is often the case with budgets, it does take a fair amount of time to go through what it contains. One of the valuable assets is the estimates process, and I look forward to further scrutiny of the budget during that time. My initial reaction to the budget was one of relief. I was completely convinced that voting against the sale of ACTEW was the right thing to do. I do not think that this budget is filled with the horror and the doom and gloom the Chief Minister said would be the consequence of not supporting the sale, so obviously I am pleased.

It even seems possible that the Territory is now on the verge of living within its means. How is this possible without the sale of ACTEW going through, given what we heard from the Government? I guess it was fortunate that the rest of us did not believe everything we read in the press releases churned out by government offices about how vital the sale was to the future of the ACT.

I have made no secret of the fact over the years that I have been here that I fully support the concept of the Territory living within its means. Members will recall - and it was on the daily program yesterday to be finalised - that I tabled some legislation which would establish that principle in law. It makes good sense that we should not spend more than we earn each year, yet this is something successive governments have not been able to do since self-government a decade ago. Bringing the budget back into the black takes balance and must not be rushed, because the human cost would otherwise be too great.

At first look - and I emphasise "first look" - this budget seems to have reasonably good balance. I appreciate that this budget comes with a certain measure of cost. There are quite a few new fees and increased charges this year and around 450 voluntary redundancies in the package. It will certainly be interesting to see what else comes to light during the estimates process, given the Chief Minister's claim that this was the full monty and everything has been fully exposed. Somehow I doubt that, though I hope it is true.

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