Page 2 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 12 February 2008
The success of the recent community roundtable which I hosted is an example of this approach. When faced with what was a difficult issue for the community, that of violence in our nightspots, we had two options: simply to criticise the government or to work constructively with the community and the government to try and improve the situation. We chose to be constructive. The result was a number of positive ideas to try and make our nightspots safer. Will these ideas alone solve the problem? No. The issues around alcohol and violence are rooted in our culture. This is a broader discussion which we need to have as a community, but the ideas that were put forward and which are yet to be put forward will help to make things better. One of the ideas that we took to the roundtable and that was endorsed—that of on-the-spot fines—is now being adopted by the government, and I welcome that.
I said on the day that I was elected as opposition leader that Canberrans had not had the opposition they deserved and that this would now change. I believe it has changed, and will continue to change. Implicit in that statement was the belief that Canberrans have not had the government we deserve over the past three years. The Stanhope government has ruthlessly used its majority to become increasingly arrogant and unaccountable. It has sought to shut down scrutiny of its performance. Instead of using the opportunity of majority government and the unprecedented revenue windfalls from the property boom and the GST to improve the lives of Canberrans, it has missed this opportunity by failing to understand and focus on the real needs of Canberrans.
After receiving unprecedented revenue from the property boom and the GST, many Canberrans are asking, “What have we to show for it?” The legacy includes 23 schools that have closed when we were told none would close; taxes and charges that have increased significantly; and waiting times for elective surgery that are the worst in the country. There has been a failure to significantly improve infrastructure, particularly our water infrastructure. The dream of home ownership has become unattainable for thousands of Canberrans. Our bus service has gone backwards and basic municipal services have been neglected. The billion-dollar boom has been squandered.
Canberrans deserve better. If ever there has been a time when Canberrans should expect a lot from their government, it is now. If a government cannot take care of the important services in the midst of a billion-dollar boom, how can it be expected to manage in tougher times? So where has all of this money gone? We know that this government has shown a remarkable lack of rigour in assessing spending proposals. It was this lack of rigour that led me to set up the new shadow portfolio of government accountability.
The list of wasteful spending which has led to little or no benefit for the community is an extensive one, and makes embarrassing reading for the government: $3.5 million on a busway which will not happen in our lifetimes; $4.5 million on FireLink, a communications system which is not being used; and $130 million on a prison which, apart from not being needed, appears to be getting smaller and smaller and may be the most expensive per bed prison in the country. Half a million dollars has been lost on hospital pay parking. Not only was this policy a mean one—charging patients and visitors to park, even on a Sunday evening—but they actually lost money.