Page 1875 - Week 06 - Thursday, 5 May 2005

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MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (3.00): Mr Speaker, you were lucky enough to be there on Tuesday evening at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry budget briefing, which was sponsored by the Frontier Group, and I think you were very lucky because Mr Quinlan started his presentation by reading from the Canberra Times horoscope of the day. I just thought I would let people know where Mr Quinlan puts his trust, because it goes like this:

The financial representation of others will not always be what they seem, but you have the ability to determine the truth of the situation during May 3, 4.

Unfortunately for Mr Quinlan, it is also my star sign, and I have taken the opportunity to determine the truth of the situation during 3 and 4 May. I will now reveal the truth of the situation to the Assembly.

It was on Tuesday that the ACT Treasurer brought down his government’s budget for 2005-06, and it was a disappointing day for the ACT. As predicted, it was indeed a horror budget—not so much for what it contained, although that was bad enough, but also for what it did not contain. It had no imagination; it contained no innovative approaches; it had no decisiveness; it held no answers.

What it did contain was a message of forlorn hope—hope that if we wait and sit with our fingers crossed things will improve. How pathetic! Unfortunately for the ACT community, this budget was more than a horror budget; it was a budget of failure—failure that has characterised this government’s decisions and activities over the past three years or so. The disappointment is that the ACT community had to experience such a budget at all at a time when economic conditions are generally good.

Let me remind you of a commentary on the state of the ACT economy made towards the end of 2004:

In its first term, the Stanhope Labor government’s business and economic development policies have contributed to a thriving ACT economy.

That is a quote from the Treasurer’s budget policy for the 2004 ACT election, made only six months ago. What a surprise! Let me repeat. The Treasurer of the ACT said that the ACT is a thriving economy.

So what has gone wrong? Why, when the ACT economy is apparently doing so well, are we facing a deficit of $91 million, that is, an actual turnaround of $143 million; the loss of more than 260 public service jobs; higher rates; and poorer health services? The answer is easy. We have seen three years of very poor budget strategies pursued by this government as Jon Stanhope and his ministers have spent as if there is no tomorrow, while they have ignored important budget fundamentals. The net result of these poor strategies has been that the ACT government has not been properly prepared for the eventual slowdown in the level of economic activity—a slowdown which we are now experiencing, at least in the housing sector, and which we all knew had to eventually arrive.

What have we got from a government that tried to convince the community that it had all the answers to economic management? We have a graffiti blue budget, for a start. But

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