Budget plunges, but Labor keeps on promising  

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As we drown in unexpected debt, the rain comes, WorkSafe goes on the warpath and Walter Burley Griffin is remembered on some far and distant shore. Another “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

NOT the prettiest set of numbers for Labor to be taking to an election with the news that the ACT Budget’s projected deficit will triple by June 30 to more than $255 million. 

Ian Meikle.

By the way, you’d know it wasn’t their fault (bushfires, coronavirus, falling GST receipts, poor land sales). 

Opposition leader Alistair Coe was gobsmacked (who wasn’t?), calling it a “staggering” situation: “Despite the fact that they’ve been receiving record revenue from every single source over the last decade. 

“They’re very good at raising money, very good at spending money, but not so good at getting value for money.” 

Unchastened by the numbers, Chief Minister Andrew Barr sees this as the year to invest and Labor’s spending will continue: with more, presumably borrowed, money heading into hospitals ($60 million) and light rail ($34 million). 

Facing the election pledge from the Libs to freeze the rate rises, Mr Barr has parried with a promise to soften the grinding annual rises in household rates come June’s (election) Budget. He says the ACT faces economic challenges and that the government wants to support household spending.

AFTER a weekend of teasing us, the heavens finally let go and next thing you know the embattled emergency services people start the week hopping around (again) trying to keep up with hundreds of calls for help with rain damage. 

What an unforgettable summer. 

One friend with a south coast beach house dodged the threat of fires to have her place inundated by a king tide from the storms. 

Another reports that, after enduring three months of stifling summer heat with a newborn son, the air-conditioning installers finally arrived at his daughter’s place but immediately abandoned the job because of the rain! “She may be owed a debt from the Canberra community for bringing our drought to a rainy end,” says sardonic grandad. 

WORKSAFE again rolled up its sleeves and again began blitzing safety at residential construction sites following a terrible second death of a 60-year-old in Denman Prospect in as many months.

In mid-to-late January, when responding to the first death of a 47-year-old man, a WorkSafe blitz issued 70 notices for safety breaches at 28 sites. This included 19 Prohibition Notices that closed down sites where there was an imminent safety risk to workers.

WorkSafe commissioner Greg Jones, usually the epitome of politeness, has his dander up: “We will be using all of the powers we have to enforce the work health and safety standards that Canberrans rightly expect in high risk workplaces like construction sites. If that means we need to issue fines, infringements or shut down worksites, then that’s what will be done.” 

No hard hats here, now… the amended safety sign in Watson.

MEANWHILE, a sharp-eyed Watson resident noticed no one wearing hardhats on a building site with 20-25 workers climbing scaffolding despite a sign on the fence saying helmets must be worn. 

Concerned, he dutifully contacts WorkSafe who leg it around to the HTI Constructions’ Negus Crescent development of 300 apartments and townhouses and report back that it’s all sorted. 

“The risk had been assessed by the builder and helmets had been determined not to be required, except for specific tasks. The helmet symbols on the signs had been covered up to reflect this, but unfortunately that sign had been missed. It has been covered up now,” came the cheery Worksafe response with a snap of the amended sign. A building site that doesn’t require hardhats; one lives and learns. 

JACK Wighton, best player in last year’s grand final, has turned his back on the bigger bucksand re-signed with the Raiders for four years because he loves the club. 

“They’ve always been there for me and I want to repay them by staying and playing the best footy I can to be successful,” he mushed. 

Raiders CEO Don Furner confirmed “Jack could have earnt more money by signing with another club but sacrificed that against what we have here in Canberra”.

IN some puffery recognising Canberra International Music Festival artistic director Roland Peelman’s recent appointment as a (hitherto unknown) “Honorary” Member of the Order of Australia comes this quirky (condescending?) quote from the AM himself: “Obviously I am chuffed and honoured to receive this little Australian gong…” I’ve got one, too, as it happens and it’s not “little”. It’s a very humbling, very big deal.

Participants at the Griffin commemorative ceremony in Lucknow.

REGULAR readers will recall our recent news story about Labor MLA Deepak-Raj Gupta thoughtfully organising a refurbishment of Walter Burley Griffin’s unkempt grave during a recent junket to Lucknow, India. He also managed to arrange, from afar, a commemorative ceremony at Walter’s grave in Lucknow, on February 11 – the 83rd anniversary of WBG succumbing to peritonitis in 1937. 


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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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