Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1707 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Many groups are not represented in a positive way in this budget. These include indigenous people, people with mental illness, young people, and people facing housing disadvantage and drug addiction.
With my new hat on as Minister for Urban Services, I am concerned with the slashing of the roads to recovery program by $100 million. It may now become the roads to nowhere program. Many roads around the nation are in urgent need of work. That is especially the case in rural and regional areas, but the ACT also benefits from that program.
The Local Government Association has put out a media release which I think is very pertinent. I quote from that:
Apparently, no thought has been given to the consequences for local communities, now forced to cover a $100 million financial shortfall in order to meet their road construction commitments or pay unknown but potentially huge penalties for breaking contracts with construction companies.
Mr Smyth would know that contracts are let because there is considered to be an assurance of continuing Commonwealth funding under established policies. We are affected by that, as local authorities are. Just recently, as the opposition would know, as part of the continuing process we have let contracts for the Monaro Highway at Dairy Flat, a $12 million project. We now have officers urgently trying to find out whether the expected commitment of money from the Commonwealth is going to come forward. We have let contracts and we are desperate to see whether we can now cover those contracts in full. That is a great trouble for us. I will report back to the Assembly when I can get some more information on that.
One of my persistent themes is housing. I will not develop that today, because I will make a ministerial statement later on and I had something to say on it yesterday. The Commonwealth budget has nothing to say about housing. We are still negotiating with the federal minister, Amanda Vanstone. There will be a new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. There is more than a hint that it will not be of the order that it was previously.
I add my deep regret at the impact that this budget will have in those areas that need additional assistance most.
MR STEFANIAK (11.57): I am not going to go into points raised by my colleagues Mr Humphries and Mrs Cross. Suffice it to say that it is always difficult bringing down a budget for a year, be it a territory budget, a household budget if you are just making ends meet, or a federal budget. Whilst the federal government appears to have made some hard decisions in its budget, there are some very worrying signs about what would happen if they did not. It may be there are areas they could have cut rather than some of the areas they have. But that is always a decision for a government.
Today I heard some horrible figures on the pharmaceutical benefits program. It cost about $500 million back in 1985. By 1989 the cost had jumped to a $1 billion, and now it is $4.2 billion. There are some problems with how we manage as a nation with an ageing population. There are a lot of issues. Locally and now federally we are trying to get