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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 3565 ..

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MS TUCKER (6.11): I would like to take the opportunity to talk about the importance of managing the Treasury portfolio, for the benefit of society and the ecological health and balance on which everything else we do depends.

That means using available resources to reduce social inequity, for example. It means not abandoning the long-term benefits of maintaining regional ecological integrity for the sake of short-term revenue-raising priorities. It means appreciating the role of the community sector as the third force in the development of our society, and ensuring that people who work in the sector are less and less the poor relations of business and government. It means investing in fundamental community infrastructure, such as public housing.

In a letter in response to mine requesting consideration of innovative measures, such as government bonds or using some of our superannuation moneys to fund increased public housing, the Treasurer notes that money can be found, depending on the priorities-and there is the rub.

Public housing is hard to go past, I would have thought. There is some argument that public housing is at a relatively high proportion in the ACT, compared to other states. However, given the absence of other major rental housing providers such as church operations, the absence of boarding houses, coupled with the shortage of affordable private rental accommodation, there is a growing need for public housing.

Access to safe and secure housing underpins education, health and employment outcomes across society. The Land Development Agency currently has objectives relating only to commercial interests. That is not responsible. It is shameful that the government is adhering to the idea of a free market approach without dealing with these more complex issues, particularly as far as it deals with land releases.

The power to choose where, when and how to release and develop land is far greater than the power to raise money. So the proposed developments at North Gungahlin are of great concern for regional conactivity and sustainability of the endangered grassy woodland communities. Once they have been covered with suburbs; they will be lost forever.

Sometimes we hear rumours that Treasury has blocked an initiative. I do not know if that is correct. Nevertheless, it is something that keeps popping up and, if it is true, it is a real concern. If we see the Treasury bottom line prioritised over setting in place a capacity to buffer people in hard times, or those who will be struggling against the market throughout their lives, we need to take that opportunity.

Sometimes I think this sort of debate is not particularly helpful-when there is always the tendency to talk about lack of responsibility when it comes to the bottom line. This has happened for a number of years-the argument is always about the bottom line. In any event, you have to bring in the value of the longer-term investments which may require expending money, borrowing, using superannuation funds or whatever. That is responsible management of the territory's assets in respect of the long-term social and ecological wellbeing of our community.

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