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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4137 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

I think the benefits that were likely to come from this proposal were always illusory. It was always a chimera. If there was so much money to be made, how come there was not a lot of competition? How come there were not a lot of other people in the field trying to get at this bonanza that the ACT Government could see - the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? There was no competition. The Minister suggests that we had to prevent all of this business going to big corporations out of Canberra. Well, where was the business? We did not get it. The only conclusion you can draw is that there was not a lot of business or it all went out of town anyway, despite the fact that we have spent $2m worth of public moneys in an attempt to keep it here.

I think the bottom-line question is: "What market survey was done by the Government to establish the fact that the market was there and that this was going to be a good idea?", or was this just another one of those Friday night, bottle of red, great ideas and a case of the Government saying, "We will do this on Monday."? I suspect that the latter was the case. Of course, the bottom line, as I have said, is: "Well, it is only a couple of million dollars worth of public money; 800 grand a year on average; not much to worry about". I think this is characteristic of the Government.

The same argument has been mounted about things like Bruce Stadium, the international airport, the very fast train, some of the smaller ones that Mr Quinlan referred to, and Kinlyside. It just goes on and on. The bottom line is that it is only public money. "It does not matter if it costs us a few million at the end of the day; we will give it a go", they say. When it does not work, they say, firstly, "Well, yes, it was a good idea"; secondly, "No, it was not a good idea that was badly managed"; and thirdly, "It was a success. By whatever definition you use, it was a success".

All of these projects, in one way or another, have been seen by this Government and grasped as the means of saving Canberra. I am not too sure what they are supposed to save Canberra from or how, at the end of the day, they are supposed to save Canberra, but they have always been grasped by the Government as a means of saving Canberra in some fashion or another. When you think about it and you look at the totality of these ventures that the Government has jumped into over the last five years, I think you have to ask the question, "What has been the net effect or the outcome of all of these projects taken together for the ACT?". Every one of them has either cost the taxpayer money or has the potential to do so, even things like the very fast train.

I have been asking the Chief Minister questions about the very fast train lately. This project was going to be at no net cost to government. I am sure that most people when they heard that thought that it meant no money coming out of their pocket; the money is all coming from the proponent. Now we hear there is a suggestion that perhaps up to $1 billion of concessions from three governments might be necessary to make this thing a goer. How much does that translate into as our share and how much does that translate into money out of the pocket of every individual Canberran? It makes me shudder even to think of it. Yet our Chief Minister does not seem prepared to pull the plug on it. It is the Bruce Stadium again, only it is 100-fold greater. We just let it run until the bill lands on the desk and then we just hand it over to the taxpayer and say, "Sorry. This was all a good idea. It was not a good idea badly executed and it has been successful. It is only going to cost you a couple of million apiece to solve it all".

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