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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1246 ..

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member's time has expired.

MS TUCKER (4.17): So far, this debate seems to be about whether the ex-Treasurer or the current Treasurer has the bigger surplus. I do not really want to argue over what the budget position might have been if the Liberals were still in power, or whether the Liberals were good economic managers. Quite clearly, the Liberals are not in government and the ALP. The Liberals might do better to look at why they are not in government rather than putting up MPIs like this.

Excuse my cynicism. I hope I am mistaken, but the ALP's initiation of a commission of audit into the state of the territory's finances seemed to be more an exercise in putting the boot in after the Liberals were down-copying the now traditional Australian practice where the new government immediately proclaims that, because of alleged mismanagement by the previous government, the state of the finances is much worse than they thought. These statements are usually used as a way of justifying why the new government cannot fund all the election promises it made to get into power. I am, therefore, much more interested in how the ALP is going to manage the ACT budget for the next three years, and live up to the aspirations of the voters who put them into power.

There are certainly some big challenges ahead for the government. There are some particular financial liabilities arising from previous business ventures that will need to be addressed. For example, the Australian International Hotel School and the V8 Supercar race. Other government business enterprises like ACT Forests and Totalcare were questionable business ventures in the first place. The future success of the Actew/AGL merger and the associated TransACT company is uncertain.

There are also the increasing social liabilities from past under-expenditure in areas such as disability services, mental health, kids at risk and education. There are also serious deficits resulting from the federal government's shocking policy on social rights which, while not strictly the responsibility of the ACT government, ethically has to be taken into account in the ACT government's deliberations, because we are, after all, talking about citizens of the ACT.

There are also increasing environmental liabilities from past neglect of the environment. Weeds and feral animals are not yet under control on public land, and the parks and conservation service is under-resourced for its role in managing half of the ACT's land. Within the urban area, Canberra is increasing its car dependency, with millions of dollars being committed to subsidise the never-ending cycle of road building, yet investment in public transport has been neglected.

The ALP has talked about introducing triple bottom line accounting in its budget, and we are yet to see how this will be implemented. For me, the priority that the Assembly should be debating is how we are going to create a sustainable society in Canberra, environmentally, socially and economically. The debate we are having today is just a sideshow, and I wish the main event would start.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Before I call Mr Corbell, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the chamber of members of the Girls Brigade. Welcome to the Assembly.

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