Page 1903 - Week 06 - Thursday, 5 May 2005

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going to be worse, that the property cycle was turning and that the boom could not continue, but nothing was saved for the tough times.

We have also heard a large number of critics of the ACT’s planning system. Many of them have been in contact with my office. The story that I am constantly being told by builders, first home buyers, people looking to extend, architects and those in the construction industry is the issue of hold-up with planning approvals at ACTPLA. They tell me stories of waiting for an approval, only to find that the officer approving the plans is on leave or too busy with a large number of approvals to complete. They also get told that when the officer approving their plans is on holiday, there is not anyone else to approve their plans.

These delays in building approvals have come at a time when ACTPLA has been growing, when the ACT public service as a whole has been growing, and the delays in service at ACTPLA have been getting longer. Staff numbers have increased and delays in approvals have increased. Now Mr Corbell is telling us that four per cent of jobs are going. One wonders how much longer the delays for building approval might be with fewer staff. When staff levels increased, waiting times for approval increased. Maybe the government is applying the logic that, with more staff, service levels decrease; therefore, when staff levels are cut, service levels will improve. It may well be the case that efficiencies are possible if staff levels decrease. However, this government has shown little or no ability to increase efficiencies in the public service in this term of office. I certainly hope they may be able to do something in the coming year.

Mr Mulcahy drew the attention of the Assembly to a trip Mr Corbell is planning to take to the United States and the United Kingdom to learn about how other places deal with garden cities. Aside from the large number of garden suburbs in other Australian cities that Mr Corbell could look at or the large amount of information Mr Corbell could find on the internet, I am concerned about the message Mr Corbell is sending the Canberra community. Ministerial trips are often appropriate and sometimes ministers go overseas on delegations and all that sort of thing. There are plenty of times when that is appropriate.

But this government wants Canberrans to tighten their belts. They are upping rates well above CPI increases, they are spending more money on speed cameras and more parking officers and they are trying to squeeze fines out of ordinary residents. In the words of Mr Quinlan, they are going to “squeeze them till they bleed”. Mr Corbell is going to cut 10 or more jobs from his own department, leaving families without income, and then he wants to take other members of his staff on an overseas trip. When all these cuts are happening, Mr Corbell is going on an 18-day overseas trip.

As I said before, there is nothing wrong per se with ministers going on overseas trips. But this government has shown that it cannot manage its budget and, as a consequence, Canberrans are losing their jobs and paying higher rates and higher charges. People are paying for the mismanagement of this government and it seems that Mr Corbell and his staff do not have to pay in the same way. Overseas trips are still available. The good times roll on.

The ACT deficit of $91 million this year is a worrying sign. Effectively, in simple terms, it means the government will be spending $91 million more than it will earn for the year.

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