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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2183 ..

Financial Management Amendment Bill 2001 (No 2)

Debate resumed.

MRS BURKE (3.27): I have listened with interest to the points raised, Mr Speaker. Clearly, the free school buses proposal meets the criterion of addressing poverty, innovation and early intervention. I will go on to say why. On addressing poverty, this proposal will mean that hundreds of dollars will go back into the family budget and people will have a choice as to what to do with their disposable income. It will mean less wear and tear on family vehicles, which we have heard cost families a lot of money per year, and less impact on the environment. On addressing innovation, this initiative shows the government has the courage and fortitude to think outside the square. It is a bold step to assist the very people that the Labor Party and others purport to want to help. On addressing early intervention, education opportunities will be enhanced by giving parents of some students and those students on low incomes who choose to live away from home and who may otherwise struggle to find bus fares the ability not to have to make a choice between putting food on the table and paying bus fares, which could also have a positive impact on retention rates.

This initiative and promise will assist students at risk, I would have thought. In light of that, how can anyone seriously believe that spending $27 million over four years on getting children to school is simply bad policy, as was stated recently by the Labor Party? Rather, I think it shows a sensitivity to the needs of parents and young people. I do not believe that the proposal to amend or modify the Financial Management Act is an appropriate mechanism to seek to change what the government is choosing to do with its budget. There has been much talk about students missing out. We are well aware that that was the case. However, it has been resolved by an appeals mechanism and those people who rightly qualify will not miss out. I think that this initiative is excellent and it gets my support.

MR RUGENDYKE (3.29): I will not be supporting this bill.

Mr Berry: Have you changed your mind, Dave?

MR RUGENDYKE: No, I have not changed my mind. The bill is an underhanded, sleight of hand way of tampering with the budget, as if we were in some sort of caretaker mode. It appears to be quite contrary to conventions recognised by this Assembly. I have said consistently that the government has the right to present its policy direction and its budget and live or die by that policy direction and budget at an election. I think that passage of this bill would set a precedent that neither party would be comfortable with. As a matter of fact, last week we had a similar debate regarding the blurring of the lines in relation to the separation of powers.

Mr Speaker, an analogy has been drawn between the last budget and this budget. It is quite easy for me to oppose a budget that includes money for a shooting gallery, but it is not as easy to reject a budget that provides tax relief for people. Let us not forget that in last year's budget process I made my intentions quite clear about five weeks prior to the vote. Also, two members of the government, effectively, crossed the floor and supported the Labor Party on the shooting gallery proposal. Let us not forget that my vote is only one of 17. I hope that puts the situation in perspective. The analogy between last year

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