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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 614 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

My colleague, Mr Smyth, who is our shadow Treasurer, has made a number of points regarding moneys that will be available to the territory, as a result of this dreadful disaster, from other sources. I refer to moneys available from the Commonwealth and moneys that will come from our insurance policy which the previous government prudently went into. This means a lesser burden for the taxpayers of the territory. Indeed, I think I recall a figure being bandied about that it could well be that we are up for about $20 million expenditure, in what we have to do. It may be a little more than that, but it may not necessarily be quite as big a disaster, financially, as the government would have us believe.

I am delighted to hear that the recovery is going so well. The opposition has been very supportive of the magnificent efforts of the Canberra community, which continue with various fundraisers-one of which some of us are going to tonight-and which will continue, to assist the bushfire victims.

MR SPEAKER: Excuse me, Mr Stefaniak. Members, could I have some order in the gallery, please? Mr Hargreaves.

MR STEFANIAK: As I was saying, it may not necessarily be the financial disaster the government would have us believe. It would certainly be wrong for the government to hide behind this disaster any incompetence, or inability on its part to manage a budget and use this as an excuse to bring down some sort of horror budget-or not do the task they are elected to do.

It is most important that they look very closely at their budget process now-that budget is to be brought down in May, which is not too far into the distant future-and not use this as a means of putting off decisions they should make.

There are some very important decisions facing this territory. The issue of a Canberra jail is one issue the government seems to be using this crisis as a way of avoiding is. I do not think it is right for us to put that off-into the never, never, if, basket. I believe it is something that needs addressing.

There are a number of other important issues that will need addressing in this budget which I do not think it is right to put off. I would urge the Treasurer not to try to hide behind this as some sort of excuse, but to exhaust all means to ensure that the government lives up to the expectations on which it was elected.

One thing that worries me, and which worries the opposition, is talk of a fire levy or a fire tax. If that is not necessary, I believe it would be a very bad step for the government to take. Those things, in a fairly delicate economy like that of Canberra, can have an adverse affect on a number of areas. They can have an adverse affect on business. Anything that slows down business slows down investment, and makes it very hard to find employment opportunities. Employment opportunities decrease and the number of unemployed increases. So I think the treasurer needs to be very careful of taking any steps that will affect the economy of this territory in an adverse way.

With those remarks, Mr Speaker, the opposition, as my colleague Mr Smyth has said, will be supporting this appropriation bill. However, we will be closely monitoring what

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