Page 1205 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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any wonder that business might look elsewhere and invest their funds in other cities? A shortfall of skilled labour could be explained in the same way.

I would like to speak briefly about the skills shortage. The question is: why would skilled builders or tradesmen hang around the ACT if the investment dollars are going interstate? George Wasson was thwarted in his attempts to construct a permanent training centre for construction industry apprentices back in 2003 when the lessee of the premises pulled out of the deal after planning delays. At the time he noted how the delays in the project would mean it was more difficult to train skilled staff. But now the ACT government wants to pass the buck to the federal government yet again.

The ACT chamber of commerce also weighed into the debate at that time, as far back as 2003. They highlighted how our planning system was causing ACT companies to work interstate whilst keeping their headquarters here. They were spending their money elsewhere, and that cannot be good for our economy—spending going interstate, jobs created elsewhere. The chamber of commerce highlighted how it was uneconomic to undertake construction and investment work in the ACT.

So it is not just the opposition highlighting the upcoming problems of the ACT economy; it is the CFMEU; it is a former Labor lord mayor; it is business; it is industry. It seems everyone except this government realises there are problems with the ACT economy. To the government, it may be increased revenue, but Canberrans know that is code for hiking up taxes. We already pay higher vehicle registration costs, among other things, than New South Wales.

We are talking about spending $150 million—I guess that is March 2005 dollars—on a new bus road. Who knows how much the prison will cost them in dollars that apply when that projects is finished. The government talks about removing the already scarce public parking from the city, which will further cut revenue.

You cannot hide behind interest rates—10 per cent or more lower than when the Labor Party was last in government federally. You cannot hide behind unexpected windfalls to keep the budget in the black and you cannot hide behind the fact that you spend it all, with nothing for a raining day. The economy in the ACT is in trouble, and this government needs to stop shifting the blame.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.01): Mr Deputy Speaker, all these features have been about the past. I want to hear the economic visions of the government and the opposition. Yes, so much of what Mr Mulcahy says is a matter of fact and is on the record. Our revenue is less than our expenditure. A lot of that expenditure is not necessarily appropriate. There is a fear by this government, and certainly by the alternative government, of imposing new taxes, especially progressive taxes, because that would offend the people with a voice that makes a difference—the voice of the wealthy who certainly have a great influence on the opposition, from the things I have heard today.

Given that ALP state and territory governments are now hooked into a tax that they would never have imposed, or so the federal ALP declared, at a federal level, this tax has become rather like an addiction. The Greens opposed the GST in favour of a carefully developed tax regime that supports outcomes that are good for the environment and good

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