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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (3 May) . . Page.. 1429 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (Chief Minister, Minister for Community Affairs and Treasurer) (12.20), in reply: Mr Speaker, I want to make a few remarks in closing the debate on this bill. First of all, I do note the significance of the fact that we have had today a real change in attitude on the part of the Australian Labor Party towards the issue of budgeting. Today, we have had for the first time a commitment by the Labor Party in the Legislative Assembly to support an appropriation bill, which is a very significant development, Mr Speaker. It is not significant enough, I might say, for any members of the Labor Party to be here as I am saying so, but-

Mr Rugendyke: I am listening.

MR HUMPHRIES: Are you taking the title of a member of the Labor Party, Mr Rugendyke?

Mr Rugendyke: No.

MR HUMPHRIES: I am sure that you would not be. It is a very unfortunate title for anyone to have to take. Mr Speaker, in their absence, I will pay them a compliment. I think that they have made a symbolically important step today. The Liberal Party has never opposed an appropriation bill in this place and, as a result, has delivered Labor governments in this place with the capacity to be able to bring forward their budgets in some confidence. Liberal governments in this place have never enjoyed that confidence. I have to say that I welcome the sense of acknowledgment of the circumstances that have led to a change in the Labor Party's approach.

Mr Quinlan made the comment that there was a view put about that it was the job of an opposition to oppose a government's budget, being the most significant step that a government takes in a given year, and so it is. I think that the acknowledgment that this cannot work in an Assembly where there is invariably a minority government is a good one. I thank the opposition for its view about that. I hope that it will extend to the budget to be debated in June, but I will say to the opposition very clearly that, without a clear indication of what the opposition is going to do, we will go to the crossbenchers of this place and negotiate the passage of our budget with them.

Mr Speaker, I will not bring the Assembly and the government to the brink of crisis by putting on the floor of this house a bill which I do not know is going to pass, so I urge members of the Labor Party not to put me in that position. I hope that they will extend the same acknowledgment of the need for stable government with respect to Appropriation Bill 2001-02 as they have provided for this appropriation bill. I am not trying to put the Labor Party in a bad position. I welcome the development that they have announced today and I commend them for the sense that this provides stability and certainty for ACT governments.

Mr Speaker, I will not say much about Appropriation Bill (No 2). There are three things that we try to achieve in the bill. We try to ensure that technical issues are taken care of. Indeed, probably the majority of the bill deals with technical matters. Although the bill, as presented at the moment at least, appropriates $43 million or so, the real additional call on territory resources is more in the tune of $16 million. The rest is taken up by technical transfers, such as GST-related matters.

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