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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (3 May) . . Page.. 1467 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

Dealing with the drug problem is another aspect of the budget. We heard the health minister rattle off a range of initiatives in the chamber yesterday, but it is important that we analyse how they interact and complement each other, and this will be another task in the coming weeks. I note the additional $2 million for disability services, and I am interested in obtaining further detail, particularly as to how this will relate to the pending recommendations of the Gallop inquiry.

I am also awaiting feedback from the small business community, but I look forward to raising their issues when scrutinising the budget further in the Estimates Committee process.

MR BERRY (4.41): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, the most telling remark I have heard in all the discourse on this budget was when, at the budget breakfast, it was said that this was a budget of lost opportunities. I think that is true. As everybody has said, it is a budget targeted at the next election and it was available for the government to make because of a fortuitous convergence of the stars in economic terms. The government found itself cashed up in the lead-up to an election, and used that to its own advantage.

I do not think the community will be fooled by this. The community have long suffered the consequences of this Liberal government and the previous one and will be very concerned about the performance of this government and those who supported it. It will be interesting. We would say that the community will not be sucked in by this sort of budget. Next October will tell. We will be sending a message to the community: have a look at the government's performance, have a look at the promises of the past and take that into account when you estimate the value of the promises of the future.

One of those great promises was to rein in health costs. After all the years of being focused on reining in health costs, the government has decided-now that it is cashed up-that they are costs that no longer need to be reined in. That is a revelation that will set an interesting trend for the future of health funding in the ACT. I suspect it will also set an interesting trend, should this government find itself in opposition, in what it might find to criticise the health system for.

There has been much froth and bubble around the health system lately in relation to nurses, and there has been significant antagonism towards the nurses, in particular towards the secretary of the ACT branch of the Australian Nursing Federation from the minister for health. In fact, at one stage I thought the health minister had the nurses union secretary confused with somebody else because he thought she was the president of the TLC and accused her of all sorts of things, when she had not been president of the ACT Trades and Labour Council for six months. I found that to be most interesting coming from a health minister who prides himself on being up to date.

After the industrial action over pay rises, the teachers got their pay rise, the police got their pay rise and, most importantly, the politicians got their pay rise-a significant one, on the basis of comparative wage justice-but not the nurses. It was said-and it is still said-that one of our problems in the hospital is that we cannot recruit enough nurses, so we cannot provide enough services. That is not the government's fault; it is because there is a shortage of nurses.

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