Page 499 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 5 March 2008

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But those opposite, in particular the Chief Minister and the minister for tourism, have almost been a cheer squad for the cuts. Andrew Barr on ABC radio tried to claim that the cuts to our national institutions, particularly the National Museum, were actually good for Canberra. That was Andrew Barr’s claim—that these cuts would be good for the people of Canberra. He is the greatest cheerleader for the Rudd government’s attempts to slash the public service in the ACT. Not even Senator Lundy went so far as to be a cheerleader for it. Andrew Barr, the minister for tourism in the ACT, the man who is meant to represent the ACT’s tourism sector, the ACT’s tourism industry, was cheering on the Rudd government’s cuts. He was saying to Bob Debus, “Thank you very much.” He was saying to Peter Garrett, “Thank you very much for the cuts,” despite their very real impact on the people of Canberra.

The Chief Minister has been a bit all over the place on this. Occasionally he has expressed regret over the cuts to the Griffin Legacy and the potential negative ramifications for the ACT from the cuts to the NCA, but he has then gone on to try and justify the cuts and to try and defend them. There has been a very lukewarm opposition, if you can call it that, from the Chief Minister. He is very much sitting on the fence on this issue. I guess the people of Canberra need to ask the question: why is he sitting on the fence? Is it because he simply does not care? Is it because he has plans to move on to the federal government at some stage and he does not want to rock the boat with his Labor Party federal colleagues? That would make some sense, I suppose. If you have got plans to go and become a federal minister you would not want to upset the federal cabinet. You would not want to take on your Labor federal colleagues.

The Chief Minister might tell us why he has been lukewarm on this—why he has been sitting on the fence. I do not think there is anyone in Canberra that believes that if these cuts had been by a Liberal federal government, the Chief Minister would not have been leading the charge in opposition to the cuts. I think it is unfortunate that he is putting aside his ability to represent those people who have elected him—the people of the ACT who expect that he will stand up for them and their needs. Instead, he is kowtowing to his federal Labor colleagues.

Of course, the attitude of the ACT Labor government is best expressed by the minister for tourism, who is actually cheering on these cuts. He is actually the PR end of the ACT government in relation to these cuts. He is the person saying that these cuts are good for Canberra. I hope that the minister for tourism is able to join in this debate. Perhaps he can tell us why he thinks these cuts will be good for Canberra. He can tell us about some of his efforts to take it up to his federal colleagues.

We know that Jon Stanhope is in retirement mode. We have seen the announcements. We have seen that they have got six candidates in Brindabella and six in Ginninderra. John Hargreaves and Jon Stanhope are looking towards retirement. In the meantime, while they are still in this place it would be great if they could actually represent their constituents and take up the needs of their constituents, rather than looking to the next career or to retirement or whatever the case may be for them after the election.

It is worth comparing what Senator Kate Lundy and local Labor have been saying on this issue with what Gary Humphries and the opposition here have been doing.

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