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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2086 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

He said also that if we spent money inside the school gate to extend the reduction of class sizes into the classes that his kids were attending he would give these other two schools another go. He was clearly telling me that, as far as his family was concerned, the money, the $27 million, would be better placed in reducing class sizes to give a better educational outcome for his kids than in giving him extra money in his pay packet. That is what he was saying to me, Mr Speaker. He started off saying what a great idea it was, and then he talked himself out of it. We agree with him. We think this is totally misplaced.

Mr Speaker, the reason why I make these remarks now and not in the context of the line items is because the Chief Minister and Treasurer has carriage of all budget items. If he has carriage of that he should also have carriage over such things as probity when it comes to services that the government provides to the ACT taxpayers. When we looked again at the yellow cabs issue, what did we get? Absolute rubbish. The government says in its response that it does not have to do a probity check because it is not paying out any government money. I suggest, Mr Speaker, that if we are using legislative power to influence a community service, or a community facility, or something like a transport network, then it behoves us to check out whether or not a successful network actually can conduct business and whether it is financially sound. When I asked the government to prove it, they said, "Oh, no, no; we don't have to do that." Well, I would argue that they do.

Mr Speaker, I will not go on any longer. I will leave it there. I have one or two remarks to make during the line items.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (7.54): Mr Speaker, I want to take the opportunity during the debate on the Chief Minister's appropriation to comment on the government's response to issues affecting the indigenous community in the ACT. I am aware that there are a number of laudable initiatives in the budget in relation to programs affecting the indigenous population in the ACT. The problems besetting many indigenous people, not all indigenous people, of course, are symptomatic of the problems that have afflicted indigenous people in Australia for the last 200 years or more since the arrival in this country of the first white settlers. Disadvantage, dispossession and discrimination continues.

This is a matter of continuing concern to all Canberrans. We here in the ACT, the national capital, have the highest average levels of per capita income in Australia. On almost every single indicator of disadvantage and discrimination that affects or besets indigenous people in Australia, indigenous people here in the ACT suffer just as they do elsewhere in Australia. Here in the city with the highest per capita incomes in the nation, with perhaps the highest standard of living generally, we have an indigenous population with the same life expectancy as elsewhere.

The life expectancy of an indigenous male in the ACT is, I believe, 49. That is food for thought and something I reflect on. If I was an indigenous Australian male, at the age of 50, as I am now, I more likely than not would be dead. That is a statistic that affects us here in the ACT, just as it does in indigenous communities everywhere around Australia. The average life expectancy of an Aboriginal male in Canberra, this city, our home, is, I believe, 49.

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