Page 2084 - Week 06 - Thursday, 7 May 2009

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MS PORTER: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, are you aware of any proposals to cut services in the ACT budget, and what is the government’s position on this?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Ms Porter for this most important question, two days after delivery of the ACT budget and a few minutes before the alternative budget is delivered to us by the Leader of the Opposition as he receives the call to deliver his vision, his strategy, for dealing with the unprecedented impact of the global financial crisis on the ACT budget. We, of course, look forward with great anticipation to the alternative budget, which will be delivered in 15 minutes from now, and the strategy that it will undoubtedly outline and the strategy for dealing with the deficit that we are now experiencing here in the territory.

I have to say that, with all the positivity surrounding the ACT budget, Labor’s budget for these challenging times, members do need to be aware of what the alternatives might have been or indeed are—we will hear more on this in a few minutes time—what gun barrel we might have been looking down without the measured approach taken by the Treasurer, Ms Gallagher, and indeed the government.

The government invests each and every year in services to the community: health services, almost 30 per cent of our budget now, just touching $1 billion; education services; community sector services, including homelessness; housing services such as public and community housing; emergency services; services to enhance the look and feel of the city; and tourism services—noting that Mr Smyth, the opposition tourism spokesman, has just undertaken a little tourist excursion to New Zealand, while daring to lecture this government on its level of support for the local tourism industry. I am assured, Mr Smyth, that Tourism New Zealand enjoyed your holiday enormously.

When we receive submissions from the community, from interest groups in the lead-up to the budget, you may be sure that the submissions are exclusively for greater spending, not less, and for fewer revenue-raising measures, not more. The task of government, tough and sometimes unpalatable, is to balance these demands for ever greater spending—demands that in an ideal world it would be lovely to deliver.

The budget that the Treasurer handed down this week makes modest but strategic increases in services but resists the slash and burn mentality that is now being urged upon us by the Liberal Party. Never before—probably in the history of politics, not just here in the ACT—has there been an opposition, the day after a budget, demanding that the government not show the rectitude we have in relation to slash and burn. I cannot remember a previous instance when, a day after the budget, the opposition have come out and said, “You didn’t cut enough. You should have slashed. You should have sacked. You should have reduced services.”

Mr Barr: It depends which member of the opposition.

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