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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1743 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

In conclusion, Mr Speaker, the Stanhope government should be ashamed of returning a $60 million surplus in a year where affordable housing in Canberra is almost a contradiction in terms. This budget was always going to require funding for bushfire recovery, but I find it offensive using the bushfire as an excuse for a grab for tax which does nothing except make the budget bottom line look a little better.

We have $50 million in underspends and a $60 million surplus, off the back of stamp duty windfalls, which are likely to continue despite the extremely conservative Treasury interests. Canberrans have given generously in money and in time to help our community through this crisis, and that should not be exploited.

Mr Speaker, in last year's budget much was made of the expenditure review committee. This razor gang of Mr Quinlan's was going to systematically go through every department and cut out inefficiencies and any doubling up of services. Despite my questioning during estimates and in question time in this Assembly, we are still unable to see any timetables or savings as a result of the ERC. Perhaps Mr Quinlan can identify some of the savings that the ERC has found. If not, he should at least tell us which departments have been assessed and can rest easy that there will be no cuts.

In reply to this year's budget the ACT Democrats have acknowledged where the government has listened to the calls of the community and we welcome many of the initiatives. But the Stanhope government could have been more courageous and tackled the GP shortage, inadequate public transport and the housing crisis facing the ACT. Also, more money should have gone through to women's services, because women need more than just a minister.

The Canberra community will judge this government on the services delivered and problems tackled far more than they will on whether the budget was in a minor surplus or a minor deficit. If you can show you have the courage and the faith to invest in Canberra, only then will you help produce the healthy, sustainable environments and vibrant city that our residents so deserve.


(4.20): Mr Speaker, I rise to give my response to the Labor government's 2003-04 budget. I must say that this appears to be a "steady as she goes"budget and, while being reasonably responsible in many areas, I do have some concerns.

I am pleased that the dire predictions of an up to $100 million budget deficit for the next financial year have not eventuated. I must say, however, that the general government sector operating results do raise some concerns.

This government inherited a budget that was in a very healthy position. The last four financial years, including this one, have produced surpluses of $81 million and $65 million under the former government, and $28 million and $60 million under the current government. To have the 2003-04 budget dip into the red by almost $8 million is a very serious concern. That is a $70 million turnaround in just 12 months-12 months that have been fairly kind to this government in terms of revenue raising, despite the January fires. It will not get much better over the next couple of years either, and it will not take much of a financial hiccup to reduce next year's $1.7 million surplus to a deficit. However, I am pleased that this government has not done what a lot of people suspected

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