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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2841 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

Most people can understand that, within the same group of people and using the same bucket of money, to suddenly put more emphasis in one area would surely take away resources from another area. On this point however, the Chief Minister seems to be living in denial.

In many respects the budget is a major disappointment for women. Actually, it is worse than that-it is a pitiful effort. For me it is the sort of budget you would expect when the Minister for Women is a man. Despite a couple of new initiatives, the minister has not fought for the women of Canberra in this budget. There is next to nothing new here, nor is there provision for anything new in the future. In fact, over three-quarters of the claimed women's initiatives are actually non-gender specific health funding. I think they are ghosts.

Additional spending on respite care and a convalescent facility has been counted twice by the government in its media kit-once in the women's area and then again in health. Both of those initiatives are available to the whole Canberra population and are, rightly, health spending. When you weed out the double counting, actual new spending for women is less than one-tenth of the amount of the Liberals' initiatives in their last year of government-that is, $5.5 million of new initiatives committed by the Liberals in 2001-02 compared to just $370,000 by Labor this time around.

I find it disappointing to see the Chief Minister and his government place so little value on women in the territory. Obviously, there are no ideas coming from his office and no intention of funding them should any arrive in the future. Key priority areas of violence against women, childcare placements and women's counselling have largely been ignored.

A second aspect of the Chief Minister's portfolio that I wish to comment on is his broken election commitment to the information poor in our community. Under Labor, they will stay information poor-and this is a shameful thing to have to say. Labor went into the last election talking up a storm about what they would do about digital divide funding but it turns out it was only a storm in a teacup. Come the first budget, what do they do? Reduce the funding. Estimates was quite revealing on this point, and the Chief Minister at least came clean and admitted that he had cut the funding because of his own personal decisions. Unfortunately, he gave no proper explanation for having done so.

In last year's budget the former Liberal government allocated $800,000 towards bridging the digital divide between the information rich and the information poor. Within a year of taking office, not only has the new Labor government revealed it underspent this allocation, it chopped it back by $300,000 per year. Not only is this a pretty poor outcome for those low-income families who would have benefited from this funding but it makes a mockery of past criticism by Labor regarding digital divide funding.

Mr Speaker, I believe the government is yet to wake up and realise that we live in an information society. The key to ensuring that all members of our community benefit equally from this new age is access, not funding cuts for those who have little chance of accessing computers or the latest information technology.

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