Page 1657 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008

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late. It has been very slow to take a number of steps that were essential and that should have been taken years ago.

This is a budget, too, that may—and this scares me—in the macro picture be built on false premises. What if the economy dips more than we think? Mr Rudd and Mr Swan are talking down the Australian economy; when you do that, you tend to spook business very easily. What if they take a real meataxe to Canberra? What if the economy dips? What if the forward estimates for growth are way out of kilter? What happens if the amount of revenue the government thinks it is going to get simply does not materialise because the country and Canberra go backwards at a great rate? Whilst we may not be in a recession, we are certainly in a very dodgy economic position, with very little growth.

The government has finally acted—again, way too late—in terms of things like land release. Some of that will be in our electorate, Mr Speaker. But let us look at those figures. There are something like 4,200 blocks in 2008-09; there are 2,700 in the next year, and then 2,900, and 3,200 after that. It would have given me some comfort if it had happened three or four years ago.

We will see what happens. We will see what happens to our economy with this budget—a budget brought in a week before the federal budget, a federal budget which could be just as difficult for Canberra as some of the Keating government budgets—and John Howard’s 1996 budget. Well do I remember that; we had to take some very difficult steps to help our local economy get over that period. That period was brought on by 13 years of incompetent Labor management at the federal level but it certainly caused pain for Canberra. Yes, we probably came out of that a lot stronger as a result, but it was very difficult.

In that macro picture, I wonder whether there are a lot of false premises here. Time will tell, but we will start to get a bit of an idea next week. It will probably not be all that long before we see whether the premises this budget is built on are accurate or whether they are way out of kilter and there will have to be some substantial restructuring—and whether a lot of false hopes are being built up as a result of what the government is doing.

Mr Speaker, I want to mention another area that relates to our electorate, which I will concentrate on. Again I speak about a rather macro picture in relation to what is possibly significant waste. The government has announced some $14 million or so for community halls to replace schools that it has closed. As Mr Seselja and several of my other colleagues said today, one of the greatest betrayals this government has made is in relation to public education, especially in relation to closing some 23 schools and preschools.

Now, in a move which I think everyone in the community sees through as being quite ridiculous, the government are trying to make up for it by creating school halls or “hubs”. Some of the money is going to be spent on an arts hub at Cook. I think that is several million dollars—I was trying to find it—but it is certainly a significant amount of money. The people of Cook do not want a new hall or an arts hub in the place of their school; they want their school back. They want a school. For the past eight or so

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