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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1792 ..

Mr Berry: That's right, and forgot it because it was unaffordable.

MR SMYTH: It was unaffordable because we were $344 million in debt because of bad mismanagement on the part of the government you were part of, Mr Berry. Mr Berry said, "You knew you couldn't afford it." Of course we could not afford it. You had left the cookie jar empty and you put next week's groceries on the bankcard. Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, Mr Berry is condemned by his own words when he said, "You couldn't afford it." Of course we could not afford it if there was no money to spend. But through six years of hard slog, through six years of good financial management, we have got the budget into a position now where we can afford it.

Ms Tucker says, "Oh, you can't do this. It's the end of the community school. People will pick and choose and they will go elsewhere." Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I am overwhelmed by the amount of criticism for this system in New South Wales. How many schools in New South Wales have closed? Name one. How many schools in New South Wales have closed because of a free transport system in that state? I do not think anybody could name one. I am not aware of any. Somebody tell me how many schools have closed.

What has happened in New South Wales? The public have told New South Wales governments of both persuasions that they like it. They like it that much they want it improved. They want more. Why? Because the public saw a benefit to it. What does it do? It frees up money for families to spend on uniforms, on school books, on lunches, on other educational things. It actually takes money and gives it back to the community so families can spend that money as they see fit.

What is wrong with that, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker? Nothing, I would suggest. But those opposite have to be negative about everything. If my memory is correct, I cannot recall too many initiatives of this government that they have supported over the six years that have contributed to our success in making up for their failures as financial managers in the last Labor government. I cannot remember one where they have supported us. They have stood in the way of everything that we have done that has put this government and the territory into the black, that has reduced unemployment, that has seen rising retail sales and that has seen the overnight stays at hotels go up. These are the initiatives that this government has carried out that they have opposed. They oppose this one as well.

Ms Tucker then wants us to do some very complicated comparative analysis of two different things. Are there benefits to be derived from putting extra money into education? Yes, there are. That is why in this year's budget there is $91 million worth of extra spending for education over the next four years. How did we get to do that? Good financial management. Why do we do it? Because we understand the importance of education. There are $40 million worth of new education initiatives over the next four years in this year's budget, and we can do that because we listen to the community, we balance the books, and we know that this is what the community wants. It is the same with the free bus travel.

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Minister, I had to warn the earlier speaker under standing order 59. I also would like to bring that to your attention.

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