Page 1653 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 7 May 2013

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long-held tradition. It is an important issue and an important event for the business community, and it is an important event for Canberrans, because through their local radio station they get the opportunity to have an insight into some of the debates that go on the day after the budget. I think it is pretty gutless that this government have now decided that they are not up to scrutiny, and that what they would in fact like instead is just to invite the business community and they can simply, without being challenged, talk about their budget.

I do not think that is acceptable, and I do not think that passes the pub test. I do not think that the ordinary Canberran would believe that it is reasonable that they pressure a business group to exclude the opposition. Of course, it places the Business Council in an invidious position. They are now in an impossible position. Of course, if they go ahead with it, they will then be seen to simply be doing the government’s bidding—that is the position they have been put in—or they have to cancel the event. I think that the Business Council are in an interesting position, it must be said. Given their decisions during the election year last year, they have been put in quite an interesting position by this government.

Mr Rattenbury interjecting—

MR SESELJA: I hear the interjections from Mr Rattenbury. He is saying that we should not be complaining. We want a debate, and we had a debate last year. We just did not have a debate that included the Greens. You can argue whether or not the Greens, the Motorist Party, the Marion Le Social Justice Party and every party that put their hand up should have been part of that debate. But we would argue that a debate between the government and the alternative government is a reasonable way to go. The government believes that no debate should take place when it comes to the budget. I understand that Mr Barr did counter; he got in front of it, of course, after having tried to exclude the opposition and he said, “Well, we can have a debate on the Friday. We don’t like the Wednesday when the budget has just been delivered and there’s a lot of interest in the budget. Maybe a few days later when the media is not so interested in it, we can have a debate with the opposition.”

It is a ridiculous proposition and it should not be allowed to stand. Mr Barr should come down and say why it is that he is afraid to debate Jeremy Hanson on the budget on the Wednesday morning as has been the case for 17 years. Is it because Ross Solly’s questioning is too difficult for him? Is it because he thinks Jeremy Hanson is a better performer? Is it because this budget is going to be nasty? Whatever the reason is, it is unacceptable. And any government that is doing a reasonable job should open themselves up to accountability.

In the brief time I have, can I say that this government has not passed the test on those three issues that I have highlighted. There are many more. It is time that this government stopped talking about openness and accountability and started acting on it. (Time expired.)

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (4.06): I thank Mr Seselja for bringing one of my favourite subjects to the Assembly for discussion this afternoon.

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