Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee has used her Budget reply to attack the Barr Government as “out-of-touch”, claiming it lacks integrity and has a “culture of secrecy”.
The latter led the Integrity Commission to suggest issues of probity were likely “endemic” across the ACT’s public sector.
Ms Lee said public trust in the government was at an all-time low and a wide-ranging review of integrity would help to restore confidence.
Her budget reply speech also canvassed what she called a “healthcare system in crisis”, an education system rife with bullying and violence, as well as a massive teacher shortage and an under-resourced police force unable to meet demand.
But the “core of the rot” came from integrity issues, she said.
She also slammed the government’s financial management and its failure to deliver services. That prompted Chief Minister Andrew Barr to herald a return of the Canberra Liberals’ now infamous ‘lower taxes, better services’ slogan which led them to defeat in the last Territory election.
The Opposition Leader also used her speech to announce she would take on a new shadow portfolio for Housing Affordability and Choice as a signal to the community that the party was committed to addressing the housing affordability crisis.
The government and the Liberals are consistently at odds over land release. But the Liberals’ calls for the release of more land are rejected as the government argues land in the ACT is a finite resource.
Ms Lee said her party believes in the opportunity for everyone to own their own home.
“I commit to doing everything I can to ensure that housing affordability and choice are within the reach of every Canberran,” she said.
“There is much to do in this space, and I look forward to initiating further discussions on this in the coming months.”
The theme of integrity ran throughout the day yesterday, with Ms Lee calling for a dedicated committee to examine wide-ranging government integrity.
The government rejected that.
Manager of Government Business Mick Gentleman said there was already an existing committee that included integrity in its scope and that should be left to do its job.
Earlier in the week, Ms Lee had called for an independent audit of the budget and government debt. This was also rejected, with Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr describing an audit as a guise for cutting spending.
Mr Barr has repeatedly called for Ms Lee to outline what services, jobs or infrastructure she wants to cut from the Budget funding.
He issued a scathing critique of the Opposition Leader’s Budget reply yesterday saying she had missed out on an opportunity to drag her party away from former party leader Alistair Coe’s ‘lower taxes, better services’ economics into a “mature debate on fiscal policy”.
“Instead, we see that nothing has changed. A list of reviews and renamed shadow portfolios is not an economic and fiscal alternative, and this is another failed test for the Canberra Liberals.”
Mr Barr will face a no-confidence motion brought by Ms Lee following the Budget on Monday, 15 August. He is expected to survive what he’s called a “pathetically weak” move.