5 August 2022

Lee slams government's 'culture of secrecy', integrity issues in Budget reply speech

| Lottie Twyford
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Elizabeth Lee

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee accused Mr Barr of resorting to personal attacks rather than responding to the substance of her motions. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

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”.

She referenced multiple scandals the government was embroiled in, including the multi-million-dollar CIT contracts controversy and the Campbell Primary School modernisation project.

The latter led the Integrity Commission to suggest issues of probity were likely “endemic” across the ACT’s public sector.

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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.

READ ALSO Resurgent Barr means trouble for Lee as Liberals lose their way

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.”

READ ALSO Abortions to be made free in the ACT; Liberal MLA shares her own deeply personal experience

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.

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She’s right though…

HiddenDragon7:27 pm 05 Aug 22

“He (Barr) 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”.”

There is no room for a mature debate on fiscal policy with an ACT government which is in deep denial about the longer term fiscal reality which this town faces and when that government automatically treats any questioning of spending levels and priorities as an opportunity to run a scare campaign which is not so much dog-whistling as foghorns blaring.

Underlying all of this is the ingrained mentality of a place which is still, regardless of all the protestations and cherry-picked statistics to the contrary, a public sector town where the answer to every problem, real or imagined, is always more government spending and regulation and the glib assumption is that the rest of the country will forever be willing and able to pump enough money into Canberra to keep a fat ACT government afloat.

Lee is a lightweight, there is a reason the LP remain irrelevant in Canberra, Lee is not their answer.

Who have they got should Elizabeth Lee and Jeremy Hanson fall under a bus? They haven’t got anyone. The party has been trashed by Zed, Alistair and the rest of the conservatives.

You have become increasingly irrelevant Elizabeth!! Just more sniping without any input into what a govt led by you would do differently!! Blah blah blah. I have stopped listening!

Estelle,
When did you start listening?

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