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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 26 June 2008) . . Page.. 2095 ..

This process of moving to Fairbairn was announced in December 2005, from my recollection. It has been going on for some time and we have been paying rent on some of those buildings since very soon after the announcement was made in here by the then minister, Mr Hargreaves. On average, we are paying $176,000 a month, and most of those buildings are unoccupied.

It seems, from my calculations and Mr Pratt’s calculations, that over the past two years we have paid something like $4 million in rent and that there have been something like 20 people occupying the spaces. Most of those buildings out there are empty and, to some extent, unoccupiable because work has not been done on them. This is a searing indictment of the mismanagement of emergency services that we have seen under the Stanhope government.

It was not bad enough that we were not warned that the fires were coming to town. It was not bad enough that four people lost their lives. It was not bad enough that 500 homes were burnt down. It was not bad enough that the Chief Minister, who said a day after the fires, “If you are going to blame anyone, blame me,” then gets selective amnesia every time someone challenges him on the issues. But, years afterwards, five years after the fires and after the specific recommendations of the first inquiry, the McLeod inquiry, the inquiry that this Chief Minister and this government chose as their first port of call, we have not implemented this in-principle recommendation. The Chief Minister said, “Everything that Mr McLeod has recommended, I will implement.”

More money has been spent than should have been spent on this, by an extraordinary amount—$4 million in dead rent is a searing indictment of this government. It is emblematic of the wasted opportunities in emergency services. There is much more that can be said, and I will take that up in the line items, but I think that it gives a flavour of the problems with an estimates process that was hijacked by the government, both through its chairmanship and through the fact that they had a majority on the committee.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.29): The select committee had the opportunity to examine details about a budget which is one that builds for the future. It is one that will enable the government to face climate change, ageing of the population, changing models of healthcare, new technologies and labour constraints, to quote the Chief Minister’s tabling speech. This budget has vision; yet, unfortunately, the opposition members of the select committee squandered their time on the committee. They ignored the many millions of dollars contained in the budget—for instance, important infrastructure on health and education, community safety, climate change and ageing, as I said before.

Instead of examining these important budget commitments, members of the opposition on the committee spent their precious time chasing down rabbit warrens for something that was not there and was not a matter of this budget. Hour after hour was spent on seeing how many times the same question could be asked in a different way. Any observer, in fact—and some independently observed to me—would see this mindless preoccupation with scoring political points at the expense of proper scrutiny of the budget as dereliction of duty and ridiculous in its nature.

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