Page 3421 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 17 August 2010

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population actually went backwards as people moved away from the ACT because they either had lost their jobs or had to relocate to find employment elsewhere.

For those who were forced to move to find different jobs, selling their houses was very difficult and expensive in the market that was there at the time. Many were forced to sell at prices below what they had bought at. That is a very sad and harsh reality: seeing your savings—your investments, what you have worked for for many years—vanishing before your eyes.

The scenario faced by the ACT under the coalition government is potentially more drastic than that faced by the ACT during the global financial crisis, particularly given that there will be no supporting stimulus measures to soften the impact of any of those significant cuts. I think all of us in this place would say that recessions are unpleasant—in fact, outright painful—because of their effects on people’s jobs and families’ lives. They are very hard to recover from; it does take a long time to recover from them. That is why the federal government took such significant steps to inject stimulus into the national economy, to protect the country as a whole from slipping into recession.

We are very grateful for that. We have no doubt that that stimulus spend impacted here very positively. If you go and speak to any industry—it is not just us; it is not just Labor patting Labor—if you actually go and speak to the private sector here, and ask them what helped them through 2009-10, you will hear back from them that it was the stimulus spend here that kept all of those people in jobs, from contractors on building sites to designers and a whole range of consultancies. All of them will stand behind the fact that the stimulus, and the magnitude of the stimulus, was the right thing to do at the right time. Now that it has passed, or largely passed, it is very easy for those conservative elements of politics to criticise and say that it was not needed, but the reality will be that when you take the political heat out of this there will be universal agreement that the swift action of the federal government back in 2009 was the right thing to do.

When governments face challenges like restoring their budgets, there are a number of options open to them. This is something that we debated long and hard when we were formulating our budget plan: do we look for the quick fix, which is reducing our numbers in our public service, or do we look for other ways to manage those pressures? We chose the other way—managing the pressures another way. We sought to show wage restraint. We have done that with the wages outcome that has been agreed to with the unions. As that is a significant part of our costs for our budget, we were able to maintain employment at a time when we were reducing our expenditure growth into the outyears.

So there are other options available to governments. You do not need to slash and burn. The coalition’s plan here shows that they could not care less about Canberra. They probably even think it is politically attractive to not care less about Canberra. The speed and the magnitude all point to some very significant challenges that are going to face our community. The silence of those opposite about these plans has been absolutely astounding—just like their complete backflip on GP superclinics. When it is their idea, it is a good idea; when it is someone else’s idea, it is a terrible idea and should never be condoned.

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