Page 1372 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 9 May 2006

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around the deficit and the state of the ACT’s finances or budget. We have the strongest balance sheet of any jurisdiction in Australia. We have the strongest economy of any place in Australia. We have the lowest unemployment rate and the highest participation rate. The level of commercial activity in the ACT is actually challenging that of the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs. There is enormous confidence in Canberra and the Canberra community.

The decisions which I am interested in looking at and which the cabinet and the government are, of course, dealing with were, as I have said repeatedly, essentially the impetus for the decision which I took around about last August/September to initiate an external look or review of governance and strategic directions in the territory. It was not about an anticipated midyear review which revealed a deteriorating outyear position. It was about a belief that I have had for some time, which has been occupying my thinking, around the way in which we as a community have simply not addressed or grappled with some of the structural issues that we face. You all know about it. We see it now in the language and body language of Mr Seselja when he responds to questions on school closures. There is an inherent understanding. Mr Pratt went to the last election acknowledging the need to consolidate schools. I have been actively seeking to generate a community debate and conversation. We can use schools and education as an example to underpin what it is that I am saying and what was at the heart of the functional review.

Of course, the response of the Liberal Party to what it is that we are seeking to achieve and the conversation that we are seeking to have is based around self-serving, short-term cheap politics—namely, let us not have a conversation around whether or not the inherent structure of government education delivery is sound in an environment—

Mr Smyth: Well, table the report and we will have the conversation.

MR STANHOPE: You do not need to table anything. You know this. The numbers are there in the context of student numbers, student decline, ageing infrastructure, number of schools. Over the last week I have heard Mr Seselja on the subject acknowledging that in an ever-expanding school system with falling enrolments and increasing costs, a good government—a government with some courage and integrity—will look at it and say, “This is a conversation which we need to have with the community.” The government is seeking to have the conversation.

Every time we pursue the issue, the Liberal Party—particularly through Mrs Dunne, as the shadow, shadow minister for education; the shadow of the shadow—simply, cheaply politicises the conversation and the debate. I have to say that it is a problem to have two shadow ministers for education. It is confusing for the community.

MRS BURKE: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Chief Minister, as the aggregate cost of these outstanding election promises is some $276 million, what advice did Mr Costello provide to the ACT government about not proceeding with some of these promises?

MR STANHOPE: I think the first thing we have to say in relation to any number conjured up by any member of the opposition is, “Refer to the Liberal Party rule book.” If you are going to tell a lie—and Mr Mulcahy, of course, is attuned to the Liberal Party rule book on politics—

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