Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has used a speech to ACT Labor’s annual conference to outline her Government’s vision for a more connected Canberra.
In an address that included new announcements in the areas of digital technology, education and health, Ms Gallagher made a forceful case for the expansion of essential public services as an integral part of Labor’s mission.
Ms Gallagher also reaffirmed the ACT Government’s commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and praised Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s advocacy for disabled Australians and their carers.
Protecting local jobs and services
Ms Gallagher criticised Coalition policies – at Territory and Federal levels – to introduce swingeing cuts to the public sector, promising instead to stand up for local jobs.
“What I won’t do is slash the ranks of our hard-working, front-line public servants, and scale back services to the Canberra community,” Ms Gallagher said.
“What I will do is keep on protecting jobs – in the private sector and in the public sector - by maintaining government spending on services and vital infrastructure like roads and hospitals, generating economic activity providing a vote of confidence in our city,” she said.
The Chief Minister outlined her vision for a connected capital with the capacity to foster a culture of technological innovation.
“If we are re-elected we will create free wi-fi zones in Civic and in each of Canberra’s town centres – with the Tuggeranong Town Centre the first site to ‘go hot’,” Ms Gallagher said.
“This is a four-year, $2 million stride towards a truly connected capital, which will ensure that every single member of the community can access the Internet regardless of capacity to pay.”
“Connecting up our public transport provider is an important part of this transformation and so a re-elected ACT Labor Government will also deliver free Wi-Fi on ACTION buses – another four-year, $1 million investment in our digital city,” she said.
Smart Schools, Smart Students
Ms Gallagher also promised to expand the $28 million Smart School, Smart Student program, which has already connected all ACT public schools to high-speed broadband and wireless networks.
“If re-elected ACT Labor will fund $2.5 million worth of Smart School, Smart Student grants for non-government schools to help fund or subsidise the installation of fast broadband infrastructure in ACT non-government schools,” Ms Gallagher said.
“We know that good oral health is fundamental to an individual's own health and wellbeing,” Ms Gallagher said.
“Today I can announce that a re-elected ACT Labor Government will establish a mobile dental clinic to provide dental care to residential aged care facilities, special schools and to the young mums and dads at the Canberra College Cares program.
Labor will invest $1.6 million over four years to establish and run the service, which will provide comprehensive dental treatment to vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the ACT community.
“Providing targeted assistance to people who need an extra hand up is core labor business. That is what this policy is about.
“It's also about being flexible in our thinking about how we provide services to our community. If people find it hard to come to the dental clinics - well we will come to them,” she said.
“The NDIS is an example that should remind us all, on the eve of an election, why we are all members of the Labor Party and why it matters to be part of a progressive reformist movement,” Ms Gallagher said.
“We are a party that can take these challenges on, make them our priority and get them done."
Ms Gallagher paid tribute to Prime Minister Julia Gillard for driving the proposed reforms.
“For the first time in our country's history we had a Prime Minister who was prepared to step up and say that the current system was unfair and needed reform,” Ms Gallagher said.
“She was also prepared to put money on the table to support the move to a new, fairer and simpler system where the important element of universal entitlement was recognised.”