Page 1950 - Week 06 - Friday, 6 May 2005

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It is always obvious that government will extract rates, come what may, and that they will find the means of doing so, but it would have been preferable if the rural sector had been consulted and had had the opportunity to comment on this bill. It would also have been preferable if the government could have held off on further imposts on the rural sector, given the circumstances in which the sector find itself because of the ongoing drought and the lack of attention this government pays to rural lessees over a range of issues.

I refer to the time it took for the government to agree to support exceptional circumstance funding and their failure to build fences after the 2003 bushfires. Some of those fences are still not built. They are the responsibility of the government, although the government denies that responsibility. It says a lot about the concern, or lack of it, that this government has for the rural sector in the ACT.

MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Business, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (10.20), in reply: Just picking up on that last point on fences, I am presuming that the money we have spent is money we have wasted under the Mulcahy analysis of our performance in recent times. I think it would be fairly reasonable to communicate that more broadly, but we cannot get any specifics out of you yet.

I look forward to some information in relation to the money we wasted—all those hundreds of millions of dollars, including what we spent on bushfire recovery. I am presuming that a Liberal government—at least one involving Mr Mulcahy—would have spent nothing on bushfire recovery. Rural lessees would have been a lot worse off, as well as a whole lot of other sections of the community.

Mr Pratt: We would not have tried to shut down the inquiry.

MR QUINLAN: That is immaterial, with the greatest respect. What is material is that the opposition has said, “Money expended on bushfire recovery was sheer waste.” Let that be a matter of record.

Mr Pratt: When did we say that? Put it on the table!

MR QUINLAN: To put it on the table is a good idea. Just tell us what you would have spent of that money that you reckon we have wasted. If it was all wasted, then you would not have spent it. You cannot have it both ways. You could in your little mind, I suppose. If you say that that money was wasted, I think it is reasonable to infer that you would not have spent it. Therefore, you would have spent nothing in support of rural lessees.

The criticism of Mrs Dunne, like much of what was said yesterday, is very hollow and lacks credibility. Why is this bill going through so quickly? It does need to be passed in order that the instrument can be made and we can proceed with the changes to computer programs, the setting up, the printing and all that sort of thing in reasonable time. Otherwise, Treasury would have to do that on the assumption that the Assembly would later pass this bill. We would not want to do that, would we? We would not want to act as a government in anticipation without your approval. We thought it best to get your approval so that we can take the necessary action to levy the rates.

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