Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 28 August 2008) . . Page.. 3955 ..
MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (5.03): The Stanhope government is the equal highest taxing government in Australia. So I am very pleased that Mrs Dunne did put this matter of public importance on the paper today because it is very timely that we now hear some of the failures of the Stanhope government, considering that we are, as I have said, the equal highest taxing government in Australia.
While the government has had its hands constantly in the pockets of the people of Canberra, people are concerned there is little to show for it, apart from a number of pieces of statuary, of course, including the now infamous statute of Al Grassby. Wherever you look in Canberra, you see the dead hand of Labor. It is there in the tired streets, the poor maintenance, the inability of people to water their gardens and the deterioration in every service you can think of right across the board.
One of the greatest disservices to the people of Canberra has been in education, of course. The Stanhope government’s proposed closure of 39 schools, which ended up being 23 schools, was based on nothing other than the need to find revenue due to its financial mismanagement across all of government over several years. And this was revealed by the fact that the government has never been able, even to this day, to provide school communities with any rationale for its selection of schools to be closed. Indeed, what data it has provided has been found to be either inaccurate or deceptive.
The consultation meetings, if you could call them that, which were carried out were a travesty, merely a rubber-stamping of the process of closure rather than a genuine attempt by government to discuss the future of schools in an open-minded way. They had already made up their minds when they arrived at these meetings. That was very clear. I went to one or two of the public meetings and it was really clear that the fall guy sitting in the chamber today, the now minister for education, was given this poisoned chalice. It must have been some sort of proving exercise. But what it did, it proved to the community that they cannot deliver on services. The delivery of school services, if we can call it that, was going to be not touched, according to the former education minister. There was no mention of closing schools.
Many families in the ACT have been left out in the cold by this hopeless Stanhope government’s neglect of a very major area in disability services, and that is autism. Therapy ACT is hopelessly underresourced. I heard Mrs Dunne talking about some aspects of this, and I thank her for that because she knows that, for seven or eight years, this has been a passion of mine within the ACT. I have watched frustratingly the services diminish; yet the need escalates to a level that none of us in this place fully understands. Therapy ACT is hopelessly underresourced and the people there try to do their best. But the Chief Minister transferred half of the $1 million allocated by former health minister Michael Moore for therapy services into education. Autism Asperger ACT Inc has tried repeatedly to find any evidence that one dollar of the $1 million has been spent on autism services and has come up with nothing.
I have asked—and the minister and other people will know if they look at the notice paper—dozens of questions on notice to try to get the bottom of what is being spent. It is like a quagmire; it is a mishmash of part answers, a bit of funding here, not sure about the answer there. I have asked repeated questions of the health minister,