Page 1648 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008

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from below a third to almost half that which is promised. The government has no dilemma at all with making these promises because they do not expect to have to deliver them.

Even though it has identified funds for capital works it has consistently underspent these funds. Between a third and half of the funds in the capital works budget each year have not been spent. This is the simple pea and thimble trick. The Stanhope government produces a figure for the capital works budget just like window dressing in the knowledge that it will not deliver on that budget, but that information is not highlighted. Indeed, the Stanhope government sought to hide that information by stopping the release of the capital works reports.

There is more. The Stanhope government has been asleep at the wheel instead of planning a coherent capital works strategy. The more than quarter of a billion dollars identified as future provisions in budget paper No 5, page 10, is a lot of hollow logs. Cast your mind back to a speech that the Chief Minister gave before he became the Chief Minister. At the press club on 26 May 2000, the would-be Chief Minister said:

There is a peculiar line in this year’s budget papers that has already caused the government a good deal of disquiet and led to a very entertaining display of fancy footwork. It is the unallocated funds …

I guess this year you would read that as future provisions: No analysis of the budget is complete without a reference to this highly unusual discretionary funding or, as most people seem to regard it, Michael Moore’s slush fund. For that read “Jon Stanhope’s slush fund”. Mr Stanhope said:

That is not the way to frame a budget. It simply smacks of an alarming lack of strategic planning … This is the government that cannot find a way to spend $7.6 million.

In this case read “$254 million”. He went on:

This is a government that cannot identify any health need deserving of these available funds.

It is interesting hypocrisy as you travel the short distance from one bench to another, Mr Deputy Speaker. We also see nearly $11 million in the 2008-09 budget alone for more feasibility studies—more feasibility studies meaning more delays in delivering projects. It is clear that the only strategy that the Stanhope government has followed with its budgets has been a strategy to have grandiose plans such as the economic white paper that simply obscure the lack of action: a strategy to tax business till they bleed but not until they die; a strategy to cut the heart out of the community, particularly through closing schools; a strategy of pursuing personal indulgences such as statues of minor federal ministers and arboretums at the expense of sound community programs and projects and a strategy of announcing major policies through the social pages of the Canberra Times.

We need to remember that we are dealing with an ACT government that is anything but open and accountable—two hallmarks that were meant to characterise the

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