Page 971 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 25 February 2009

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At this stage, we have not made any decisions about what is in or out of the budget, but our priorities are our election commitments and our commitments under the parliamentary agreement with the Greens. We remain committed to those promises, and we are particularly looking to those promises which have a timetable attached to them.

MR SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Seselja?

MR SESELJA: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Will you rule out cuts to the projected spend in health, education, social or community programs?

MS GALLAGHER: Again, at this stage everything is on the table, but I do not want to create concern that we are looking to cut services in this year’s budget—unlike what would have happened if the Liberals had actually won the election last year. You had forecast $200 million in savings out of service delivery agencies across the ACT public service. It was 200 staff.

Mr Seselja: That is not what Treasury said. Is that what Treasury said?

MS GALLAGHER: Let’s not quibble about the programs. It was 200 staff. I know the Liberals say there would have been no redundancies. There would have had to have been redundancies, because you cannot take nurses out of Corrections Health and reapply them to one of the other priorities out of health. You cannot do it. There would have been redundancies, and you know there would have been redundancies.

I do not want to create any concern that we are going to approach this budget with any desire to cut service delivery, particularly in those key areas of health, education, community services and our social support systems. I think everybody who is watching the unfolding of our national economic situation is acutely aware of the role that the public purse, through taxpayers’ money, through the delivery of budgets, is essential now, more perhaps than it has ever been particularly over the last 10 years.

I would say that it is more critical now that governments invest, that we support our own asset base, that we look at services and that we make sure we continue to invest and support local families and local jobs. That is what this government is about. That is what we are going to be doing through the budget.

It is going to be a difficult process. We will have to look within ourselves and look at whether there are any areas of government where we can reprioritise or reallocate. We live on our record in this regard. Our commitments to health, education and community services are well known. You will not find another government that has invested in those areas to the extent that we have. We have a proud record there. Despite our budget having some pressure and despite the GST sceptics we have over there now—we heard them this morning—

Opposition members interjecting—

MS GALLAGHER: Yes, we heard you this morning—the GST sceptics. Despite all of that we will deliver a fair and responsible budget to the people of the ACT, and we look forward to your support for it when we bring it forward.

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