Page 3 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 12 February 2008

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Millions have been spent on an arboretum in the middle of an extended period of drought; millions have been spent on promoting and marketing the LDA; and $72,000 has been spent on a statue honouring Al Grassby. The list goes on. A government which is prepared to treat taxpayers’ money with such contempt in these areas will continue to do so. These are just some of the examples which we know about, but it tells a story regarding why this government has failed to secure the key services and infrastructure at a time of such massive revenue.

These figures are the government’s own figures. Where is the investment in tomorrow? This leads me to the government’s record of openness. Jon Stanhope came to government with a promise of open and accountable government. If anything has become apparent during this term of majority government it is that this promise, along with his promise not to close any schools, has been broken. The Stanhope government has used its majority in the Assembly to shut down any reasonable scrutiny of its record. There is no greater example of this than the suppression of the Costello review. How can a government which continues to claim it is open and transparent suppress the very report which underpins its budget, and particularly a report which it used to justify its schools closure program? What were the assumptions underlying the report? Have those assumptions been proved correct? Was the school closure program justified by ensuing land sales of the closed sites? We may never know. A government that was not afraid of scrutiny would put this kind of information into the public arena.

This is far from the only example of such an attitude. We have seen secret estimates hearings into the EpiCentre debacle, the gagging of the budget debate, the refusal of the Chief Minister to release his legal advice after his unprecedented attempt to shut down the coronial inquiry when it became uncomfortable for him and his government. We have seen this government’s approach to consultation, and it could be summed up in two words: Griffith library; that is, “We won’t consult with you because we know what you’ll tell us.” These actions are the signs of a stale government, a government which has forgotten that it is answerable to the people, not just every four years at the ballot box, but in an ongoing way through the people’s representatives in the Legislative Assembly.

It is no surprise that the government has acted in this way. With a record of mismanagement and misplaced priorities and of wasting the billion-dollar boom, it is no surprise that it would wish to avoid genuine scrutiny of its record. Canberrans deserve better; Canberra can do better.

I aspired to the leadership of the Liberal Party because I love Canberra. I love what Canberra is and what Canberra can become. I want Canberra to continue to be the best place in the world to live, but this can only happen when its leaders are committed to getting the priorities right. We need a government which is focused on the key needs and aspirations of the community which it is elected to serve.

I believe that our health system can be not just the best in the country but the best in the world. I believe that our good education system can become one where all kids, no matter what their background is, are given the opportunity to achieve their potential. I

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