Page 531 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 5 March 2008

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simple things to sink in for these guys—Balloon Aloft, together with Australian Capital Tourism and the Chief Minister’s events unit, will take responsibility for the management, delivery and promotion of the event. Those organisations will take responsibility for all aspects of safety around the event, both in terms of the balloons themselves and in terms of the activities that occur on the ground. Of course, all appropriate precautions will be taken around public safety.

It is very clear that the exorbitant amount that was bid for by the previous operators, and particularly the $90,000 event management fee, was way, way above the odds for the sort of event that we want to see here in Canberra. Those opposite are definitely bitterly disappointed with the government’s decision. They have a clear concern, and the allegations and imputations in this question are that an experienced commercial balloon operator, who had been operating in Canberra for, I understand, 22 years or more, is seemingly incapable of organising a safe balloon event. Let me make it very clear to those opposite that the organisation that we are partnering with to deliver this event has a very good record, and a very well and long-established record, of operating balloon events in the ACT, and the people who are involved have considerable skill in this matter.

The staff from the Chief Minister’s Department events unit and the Australian Capital Tourism staff have done this before. They have involvement, and the ACT government has involvement, in this event going back to 1986. So you would think that that would be enough experience, given that the ACT government and these agencies have been involved since the inception of the event, for the opposition to have confidence in our ability to deliver a good event for Canberra. But it would appear that they do not. I look forward, as do the staff in Australian Capital Tourism and the staff of the events unit of the Chief Minister’s Department and Balloon Aloft, to proving these naysayers wrong. I know they are going to try desperately to tear this event down. They do not believe in this event; they do not believe in Canberra locals putting on a good event. That is their concern. That is what they will continue to peddle. Mr Smyth and now Mr Pratt will continue to use parliamentary privilege to besmirch the reputation of public servants in this town.

Disappointingly, it seems that, despite all of the questions and all of the opportunities they have had to investigate these matters, they still come back to these same churlish points. It really is insulting to the staff within the Chief Minister’s Department, within Australian Capital Tourism and within Balloon Aloft to suggest they are incapable of running an event with which they have had a 20-year association. In fact, the real concern through all of this is their desire to see taxpayers’ money wasted under the previous arrangement. Presumably, their position here is that the government should have just written a blank cheque to the previous operators and said: “Yep, whatever you want; it doesn’t matter. We’re so concerned about the fallout by not using you and using another operator that we’ll just write you a blank cheque.” If that is the sort of financial management we are going to see under the Liberal Party with Brendan Smyth as the alternative Treasurer in this place, if that is his attitude to public finance, it is no wonder that Mr Mulcahy, the only Liberal elected to this place in 2004 with any economic capability, was turned down, when you have got Smythanomics coming forward.

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