Page 1622 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008

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In the Assembly, the community has to rely on the Greens to bring these perspectives to budget analysis. The Greens look at the budget through a lens of social equity and sustainability, applying a carbon test, as we must, in these days of climate crisis awareness.

Knowing that we have fewer than 10 years to avert long-term if not irreversible climate change focuses the mind wonderfully. We do not have to have children to care about the future. The budget is the most effective and certain tool available to governments to set the economic triggers to build a sustainable economy which values the physical world—our world. Stern and respected economists have said so. We have to act now. We have to act with this budget. So let us have a look at it.

The budget indicates that the government certainly read the community submissions. It has picked bits out of lots of them, enough to make most community organisations happy enough after lean years. Much of this is good and answers real need in the community. But there are also a lot of ad hoc funding commitments that do not seem to be about building community capacity.

Mr Stanhope has boasted of this government’s strong commitment to improving services for the disadvantaged communities since coming to office. Perhaps the Chief Minister thinks that people have forgotten that it was precisely the disadvantaged and politically marginalised people in our community that bore the brunt of his swingeing cuts in the 2005-06 budget. They certainly were not valued very highly in the secret Costello review, and I am not sure that this budget adequately compensates those people for the pain that the government inflicted on them in the past.

It is bad for democracy when politicians get away with substituting spin for substance and when more effort goes into packaging and market positioning of political product than in directing attention at identifying, assessing and formulating solutions to problems facing the community directly or indirectly and through our stewardship role our numbers and technologies have given us over the environment.

There are many budget measures that add to the wellbeing and future health of Canberra’s people. I am not saying that there are not many good things in this budget, because there clearly are. The Greens are looking in this budget for evidence of vision, planning and consultation. I believe that there is some very thorough thinking behind many of the programs to be funded in education, and I commend the budget for significant investment in health.

The health minister announced, through extensive consultation and thinking among administrators, practitioners and consumers, a plan to roll out the health services reasonably predictably over the next decade or so. The community can have confidence in that sort of planning. They can see that the budget is actually enabling the plan to be implemented. Spending to a plan which is based on sound research and good consultation ensures we are all winners. The Greens may not agree with some of the spending priorities in health—I will talk about those later—but we do have faith in the process. Significantly, health is the one area that has done very well in the last three budgets, going against a trend for deep cuts in other services.

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