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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1710 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

I am sure that the federal government will not deny the rights of every person in this country. The federal government will not deny civil liberties. The federal government will not deny the right of dissent. The federal government will not deny the right to demonstrate. We cherish these rights. The federal government cherishes these rights. We on this side of the house cherish these rights. But to expect that you can allow people to exercise these rights without taking care of the cold, hard reality of putting in place security measures is naive.

I would commend the federal government's budget. I would commend the federal government for the money it has had to spend-it has no choice-on defence and security so that we can get on with ensuring that our other programs can proceed effectively in an environment of peace and security.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (12.09): Mr Speaker, I will make some broad comments on the Commonwealth budget that was delivered this week. Much of what I would have said has been said by the Treasurer. I characterise the federal budget as both mean and tricky. It is mean to the extent that it focuses very much on cuts to the health and welfare sector as the basis for paying for increased expenditure on defence and border protection.

Mr Stefaniak has just made a quite coherent statement about the importance of national defence and security. None of us denies or gainsays that. National security is a fundamental requirement and something that attracts universal and bipartisan support. None of us argues with that.

There is an issue, though, around how we achieve an appropriate level of expenditure on defence and internal security. In discussing those issues, we need to put this budget into context, as was indicated by my federal colleague Bob McMullan on budget night. The federal budget cuts to health and to welfare are bigger than the increased spending on defence and border protection.

We need to stop and contemplate what was done in this budget. Significant cuts were made to the disability program, and a 30 per cent increase in the price of prescriptions was imposed on families. To counterbalance those savings of $1 billion or more, there was an increase in expenditure on internal security and defence. That is the point that is being made. Nobody is arguing about the need for us to ensure that the nation is secure from attack and that our borders are secure. But there has to be a major question mark over the financing of those adjusted priorities by attacking the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people within the community-people with a disability, for goodness sake.

Putting it in that context, one really has to take exception at Mr Humphries' description of those who raise these issues as people crying crocodile tears. That is extremely offensive to people with a disability or who face significant bills for scripts for illness within their family. That is what we are facing in this budget-a requirement that people with a disability, struggling families and people who are disadvantaged, on the edge and struggling from day to day basis to make ends meet pay for the reordered priorities.

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