Page 1907 - Week 06 - Thursday, 5 May 2005

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There is a proposed business levy, which apparently will be targeted towards improving the look of the city. There are no guarantees that this will be spent in these areas, or whether indeed it will have any noticeable impact on the problem. Does this levy mean that the government will use it to fund graffiti clean-up on private property? I do not think so. I do not see how it will really improve the look of the city overall. It does not address the growing problems with graffiti and vandalism at suburban and regional shopping centres and business areas.

The minister has announced that $9.8 million will be spent on upgrades to improve the look and safety of the city. However, this funding is mostly targeted towards upgrades of the Belconnen lakeshore, Belconnen library, playground upgrades and maintenance of trees and parks. It does not appear to include anything that will address the growing mess around the city and urban precincts.

With respect to roads, the Gungahlin Drive extension cost has blown out by $16 million since the 2004-05 budget. It was $70 million, but has now grown to $86 million. The project has been delayed by another 14 months. It was to be completed in June 2006, but is now forecast for completion in September 2007. It is understood that legal challenges have delayed the project, but the background to all this is, of course, that the government failed to act when they had the opportunity a couple of years ago and we might have avoided the problems that we currently have.

Next year’s budget shows that ACT Forests will see the planting of 1.3 million pine trees. We need to know where those pine trees are going to go. Will they balance the bush outlook? What will happen about bushfire mitigation? Where is the money for that? What strategic role will the planting of these pine trees play?

On transport, I question the Stanhope government’s decision at this time to commit funding to the tune of $6.76 million for the introduction of a real time information system at bus interchanges and stops throughout Canberra. This is unjustifiable at this time with funding needed for crucial areas of health, police, housing, education and emergency services. How about spending that $6.76 million on 60 extra police officers or ensuring that the new fancy equipment is not vandalised before it gets installed? How about spending that money on other essential services?

There are concerns about multicultural affairs. There is also a blatant lack of new initiatives in the 2005-06 budget for the multicultural community. This is disappointing for the multicultural community in general, who are an integral part of this town. To top off the insult, the multicultural centre will be delayed another 12 months from its original forecast completion date of June 2005. It will not now be completed until June 2006, and the cost has blown out by 20 per cent from $2.5 million to $3.2 million. These delays and cost blowouts since the Stanhope government took office demonstrate that it is not fit to manage the finances of this territory.

Let us look at emergency services. I am concerned about the lack of funding, indeed the total wiping out at this point of the construction or major upgrade of the ESA headquarters. This is a gross injustice. It goes against the promises made by the Stanhope government in the period after the 2003 bushfire disaster. I remind members that Mr McLeod said:

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