Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2571 ..
Mrs Dunne: You are wrong-there was no mention of the fire.
MR STANHOPE: The reference to the fire is the reference to the cost to the community of the fire which, on the day-and it is still the case-was estimated at around $55 million. What do you do with the $55 million to which Mr Stefaniak is referring? Mr Stefaniak was referring to the cost to the Canberra community of $55 million.
In the interview to which Mr Stefaniak referred, I costed the fire to the community at around $55 million-and that is the cost.
MR SPEAKER: Order, members! Order, everybody, please! Chief Minister, come to the point of the question.
MR STANHOPE: The point of the question was that the fire had cost this community a considerable amount. That is true-not just physically, and not just in respect of the resources we are now applying to ensure that we recover fully from the fire.
I did say on 2CC-I don't remember the date, although Mr Stefaniak referred to one-that the cost of the fire would very likely have an impact on other governmental priorities-because our first priority had to be to ensure that we recovered fully from the fire. That is still this government's first priority. I said that other priorities, such as the prison would have to wait.
Mrs Dunne: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: standing order 118 (a) requires the minister to be concise and not digress from the point. We are still talking about the fire, when this is a question about the prison decision.
MR SPEAKER: I just heard him mention the prison, Mrs Dunne-resume your seat.
Mrs Dunne: It was only in passing-and he forgot about it as soon as possible!
MR STANHOPE: I will conclude, Mr Speaker. I was interviewed on 2CC some months ago. I do not remember my words-I will have to get them out. The point I was making was that there was a significant cost to the community of the fire; that the government had a range of priorities, one of which was new correctional facilities. I said, at the time, that I anticipated that our priorities would have to be adjusted and that I felt a prison was one of the priorities that would have to give way to full bushfire recovery.
As a result, however, of the absolutely fantastic management of the ACT's economy, we now find ourselves in the situation where we have a surplus of around $100 million. I give credit to every member of the government-and of course to the Treasurer-because we have an economy which is performing better than any other economy in Australia. On every one of the indicators such as employment, growth, retail trade, housing and land sales-just mention one and I will tell you how well the ACT is going-this Labor government here in the ACT is performing better than any other government in Australia. As a result of that, we have produced a surplus of over $100 million, which has given us the capacity to have some flexibility in our thinking and the funding of our priorities.