Page 2380 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (4.38): The Chief Minister made some interesting observations about the arboretum. He spoke about how important it is to diversify our economic base, how important it is to not be afraid to have new attractions and how important it is for things to occur. Yet in the first 3½ years of the Stanhope government, nothing occurred.

I want to quote the example of the National Zoo and Aquarium. The National Zoo and Aquarium meets all the criteria the Chief Minister was just talking about—vision, long-term investment, something unique, a new attraction. And what did the Stanhope government do to the National Zoo and Aquarium? They threw obstacle after obstacle in its path. The zoo is still asking for a block of land that was burnt out in the December 2001 fires. That is our commitment to diversifying our base; that is our commitment to having something unique!

The zoo is winning awards. It has received awards at tourism shows for the programs it runs—to come and see the big cats, to go behind the scenes, to feed the honey bears and all those sorts of things. The zoo wanted to set up, almost within the shadow of our federal parliament, a range zoo with rhinoceros, elephants and giraffes out in the savannah. I would have thought that would be fairly majestic. I would have thought that that would have been unique to a capital city. Not even Pretoria or Cape Town has a range zoo within the confines of their cities. But we could have that here, Mr Deputy Speaker, in the national capital of Australia if we could just get this government to stop sitting on its hands and do something. But the problem is that Jon Stanhope did not think of it. This is why we do not have such a majestic attraction.

Let us look at what they have done in the past couple of years. They have canned the V8s, they have not helped the zoo, they have come up with an idea for an arboretum and we have got a bike ride. At the end of four years of office we will have a bike ride for which there is some money this year, which does not generate any additional staff inside the tourism unit, and which is not fully funded in the out years.

Mr Stanhope ought to look at himself before he comes down here and berates us about not supporting an idea that we do not see as sustainable, not based on what he is saying but on what the ACIL Tasman report says it needs—$20 million to set it up and in its fourth year of operation about $4.3 million recurrent to run it, none of which appears in this budget.

The problem with this Chief Minister is that his Treasurer cannot control him. The problem here today is that Mr Quinlan is in retirement mode. He is waiting for the opportunity to go. He is sick of his colleagues. We have got this sort of “why bother?” budget in front of us. “Why do I bother? Nobody listens to me.” says the Treasurer. Then we get this appeal from Prince Jon the Majestic—on his own assessment, what he is doing is majestic. My old mum used to say, “Self-praise is no recommendation.” So don’t lecture us, Chief Minister, about our lack of support for a half-baked idea that will cost money long term that does not appear in your budget. You ought to get your budget priorities right, such as addressing things like the hospital waiting lists and the need for additional police officers, before you go haring off on ideas like the arboretum.

This arboretum will be larger than the Australian National Botanic Gardens whose budget is about $8 million a year. About 60 staff are employed by the botanic gardens

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