Page 1240 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008

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If you go back and look at the budget papers, the savings in the first year were something less than $2 million, rising to $4 million and then $8 million and $16 million over the outyears.

Mr Barr: Each and every year.

MRS DUNNE: Mr Barr can interrupt all he likes but he does not like to hear the truth. If you go back and look at that, over the outyears over the life of the budget, there was $16 million worth of savings if Mr Barr had had his way and closed 39 schools. In the further years, there may have been—

Mr Mulcahy: On a point of order, Mr Assistant Speaker: the sentiment and discussion on education are interesting but we do have the Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Repeal Bill here. We seem to be getting way out of the mainstream of discussion.

MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Mr Gentleman): Thank you, Mr Mulcahy.

MRS DUNNE: I hear what Mr Mulcahy says.

MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Thank you, Mrs Dunne.

MRS DUNNE: It is entirely relevant because it goes to the government’s capacity to manage and the government’s capacity to levy reasonable taxes. All of this goes back to the 2006 budget. In the 2006 budget Mr Barr promised savings across the life of the budget because of the school closures, if he closed 49 schools, of $16 million.

Mr Barr: Sorry, say that again. How many schools?

MRS DUNNE: Sorry, 39 schools. We are clever, are we not? The final decision was to close 23 schools, so that the savings that the minister set out to achieve were unachievable because he did not close the quantum of schools that he wanted to. Mr Stefaniak, who had had experience of two—both the Alliance government and Liberal Party government—school closures, understood that the savings from closing a school were very small. As a result, Mr Barr—

MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Order, Mrs Dunne! I do need to bring you back to the point of this discussion, which is the Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Repeal Bill, and remind you that that is the discussion we are having.

MRS DUNNE: The Utilities (Network Utilities Tax) Repeal Bill goes to the heart of the Stanhope government’s capacity to manage revenue and raise taxes. The proposals Mr Barr was allowed to wax long and lyrical about in relation to the supposed savings in the education budget and the hard decisions are illusory—non-existent. The hardship imposed by the Stanhope government on the people of Canberra, through initiatives like the utilities revenue tax proposal and the closure of schools, has been unwarranted and has not brought the benefits that this government claims that we would see.

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