Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1695 ..
MR QUINLAN: But we were not claiming it as being the hard work of paying off debt. You flog off public assets, pay off the debt and say it is an economic miracle. Last year's budget was a fraud inasmuch as it was a deficit in disguise. Included in last year's budget were asset sales as income but payments to the states as loans. It was a fiddle. This year's budget does not look a lot different. Even beyond last year's fiddle, it still produced a deficit, a deficit that will create pressure on interest rates. This year's budget may well be the same.
I refer next to the increased costs of pharmaceuticals benefits. I want to do this by example. A friend of mine, whom I will call Tommy O'Brien even though that is not his name, although he does have an Irish name, is in his 40s and crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. There is medication that offers relief to people in his position. This medication is not on the pharmaceutical benefits list and he cannot afford it. He cannot afford the medicine that would make him well.
What this government has done in this budget is to push other people towards the position of my friend Tommy O'Brien, who suffers every day. He cannot work. He is not a lazy person. He suffers everyday because the medicine that can assist him is out of his economic reach. It has been trialled. It has been successful. It is a very sad commentary on the society in which we live when pharmaceuticals that can bring relief from pain and allow individuals a decent style of living are becoming less available by virtue of their increased costs.
You would have to summarise this budget as being a budget that makes the disabled and those who need assistance in their lives through the pharmaceutical benefit scheme pay for the fortress Australia attitude that the Howard government has and used in the last election unashamedly to appeal to the redneck vote in the ACT. Why is Pauline Hanson no longer around? Her followers have a larger party to follow.
MR SPEAKER: The minister's time has expired.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (11.10): Mr Speaker, the first observation that needs to be made about the federal budget, particularly from the point of view of our opponents, is that it is not anything like as bad as they were hoping it might be. They were expecting, and hoping no doubt, for a very severe budget, a budget that would create a great many opportunities for kicks at the head of the Liberal Party. Overall it is true to say that that has not been furnished to them. So the exercise we are going through today is a slightly desultory one of saying, "The federal budget has been brought down. We always oppose a Liberal government budget. Let us have a bit of a kick of their head." The fact is that there is not much fire in this, and I can well understand why.
The 2002-03 federal budget provides a strong foundation for both the security of business in Australia and the security of Australia in general. It is a budget that will provide benefits across the board for the ACT in particular, in areas like jobs, tourism, sport and the aged.
An underlying factor in this budget that needs to be acknowledged is that there is evidence that the GST pie, which the ACT ultimately will be a very significant beneficiary of, is firming up nicely for the ACT's benefit in future years. The ACT's