Page 108 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 14 December 2016

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If ever you wanted evidence of the Abbott legacy on the Liberal Party and that style of hard-line fiscal conservatism, that aversion to any government role in the economy, you see it writ large in the speech we have just had from the Leader of the Opposition, firmly planting himself to the right even of Scott Morrison with that little 15-minute diatribe that meandered all over the place and never really came to the real issue that confronts the ACT, that is, how we can ensure that our economy continues to grow into the future and what government policy settings are necessary in order to ensure that growth and to accelerate it.

Let there be no doubt of the very clear philosophical differences that there now are between this side of the chamber and the new ultra conservative opposition leader. Mr Hanson, to his credit, in the last election campaign was on the record many times saying that he would not be attempting to bring the budget back into surplus any quicker than the government and that there would be no cuts. We all thought there was a little bit of pre-election posturing around those statements from the former Leader of the Opposition, and that has absolutely been confirmed by the man who would have been his treasurer had they been successful in October’s election. He has now revealed his agenda for the ACT, and that is a smaller public sector. He would cut and he would cut hard in order to pursue an ideological agenda. He would look at this and the territory budget solely through the prism of an accountant, not of an economist interested in the broader economic picture.

The question the Leader of the Opposition needs to answer is: if the territory government withdraws or if we are a smaller part of the territory economy, what will fill that gap? What are we crowding out at this point in time? If ACT government infrastructure investment, if ACT government borrowings that he is so afraid of, were crowding out any private sector activity, he might have a point. But in the context of the projects that the ACT government is undertaking and the infrastructure facilitation and private sector investment facilitation that comes from the government’s infrastructure program, if we were not going ahead with that there would not be both the signals and the environment for private sector investment.

The classic example of this is the government’s investment in transport infrastructure and all of the private sector investment that is now flowing from our decision to invest in the light rail infrastructure. Just look at the transformation of Northbourne Avenue and all of that private sector investment, both on government land or former government land that has been sold and on land held by the private sector.

So there is an example of government borrowings for infrastructure to deliver a more functional city to make it easier for people to move around, attracting private sector investment, That is exactly the role of government. We could disagree on that, and the opposition leader can hold all of the conservative economic views he wants, but for the next four years, thankfully his views are largely irrelevant. That speech this morning demonstrates that the Liberal Party will not be playing any constructive role in economic policy debate.

There were a few interjections from the Leader of the Opposition earlier in relation to dates for return to budget balance and surplus, and I can make a couple of

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