Page 2630 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 23 June 2009

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This is disappointing for me not only as a member of this Assembly but as a resident of this territory. The committee has not seized the opportunity to provide real debate or real options on the issues affecting the budget. This estimates committee was obviously trying to score political points rather than provide considered discussion. It is here that I note that one member has dissented from this report, largely in response to the overtly partisan point-scoring character of the report, preferring instead to provide constructive policy-based input on significant elements of the budget.

Unlike the expert consultant engaged to analyse the budget, the estimates committee appears to have failed to recognise the context in which the budget has been framed. Our budget strategy stacks up, our budget is considered and our budget is responsive. Delivering such a sound budget in these extraordinarily difficult times has been possible because of the strength of our budget, and this is due to our past and continued prudent financial management.

Mr Speaker, returning to the main report of the estimates committee, generally its recommendations failed to raise any serious issues that would prevent the passing of the Appropriation Bill. I also note the absence of a recommendation on passing the Appropriation Bill. The Leader of the Opposition had threatened to block the budget and has now confirmed that the opposition intends to do that and vote against the budget.

This is incomprehensible, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition has not engaged in matters pertaining to the budget and the circumstances of the territory’s finances. They have not provided an alternative plan and now they will try to block the budget. This is irresponsible, Mr Speaker. This is a budget during a very uncertain time—a point I have stressed for some time now and a point the expert adviser has stressed. This community needs confidence. The business community needs confidence and certainty. It is irresponsible to create a climate of uncertainty and it is irresponsible to undermine community and business confidence.

The Leader of the Opposition is entitled not to engage. He is entitled not to have a plan of his own, but he should not play politics with the economic and social wellbeing of this community. It is a pity that the Leader of the Opposition has not decided to join, despite my invitation, to work together. Mr Speaker, the government will be getting on with the job of prudently managing the territory’s finances in these difficult times. The government will be getting on with the job with preserving and enhancing services to the community while returning the budget to surplus and the government will be getting on with the job of supporting business and investment.

I again thank the committee for its report and remind the Assembly that this budget aims to provide stability in the territory and to increase the confidence of the ACT community in these tough economic conditions. I commend the government’s response to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.

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