Page 98 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 9 December 2008

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But it will take a shared effort, not just between government and the ministry or government and the community sector but between government members and others elected to this place. All of us, each one of us, are motivated to run for public office to improve the lives of our fellow Canberrans. So let us do it. I propose to do it by exerting myself, as I already am, in each one of the portfolio areas for which I have assumed responsibility. Each of my ministers is similarly off and running. None has squandered the crucial first weeks of government and each, over the coming days, will articulate this government’s immediate and urgent agenda, along with our medium and long-term ambitions for this territory.

For the immediate future, for the coming weeks and months, the supplementary appropriation bill will establish the most urgent new spending priorities:

• a massive injection of assistance for the welfare and community sector;

• a rescue package for the RSPCA;

• closely targeted, meaningful help for those most vulnerable.

These investments, combined with the actions already arising from our high-level industry and community roundtables, signal this government’s No 1 priority in the immediate term: protecting our local economy from the worst effects of the global and national downturn. Starting straight away, we have joined the Canberra CBD Ltd for a short, sharp advertising campaign to remind Canberrans that when they spend in our local shops they are supporting their local economy and local jobs. Looking a little ahead, there will be a second campaign concentrating on the tourism sector. But these and other urgent actions are for the weeks and months ahead.

The government went to the election with an agenda and a vision for the four years ahead. It was a vision painted in broad strokes in the Canberra plan: toward our second century, and given shape in the policies we announced and the commitments we made during the campaign. Those commitments remain solid; the vision is bold. It may be that priorities will need to be shuffled or timing rethought, depending on the depth and duration of the economic downturn. But the commitments remain and the vision remains.

The government will deliver the first stage of the most extensive upgrade of our public health system since self-government. The government will continue to improve student outcomes and teacher quality, reduce average class sizes in all remaining years of schooling and deliver the best facilities for students and teachers.

The government will respond to the challenges of climate change. And we are able to do all of these things because our budget remains inherently strong. Unlike other jurisdictions, we are not having to draw back from infrastructure building. Our plans are budgeted for; the money is there.

Make no mistake, our balance sheet will take and has taken a hit. But the impact will be minimised by the protective actions the government took over the course of the last

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