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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 617..


MR HIRD (continuing):

I think that Mr Stefaniak has put a very strong case for retaining the $25 fee. It costs the department $25 for the police to do the checks. At the end of the day someone has to pay. Whether it is the applicant or society, someone has to pick up the tab. In this instance it is someone who gets a job. I would dare say that as that $25 would be a cost to the person receiving the position there would be a tax benefit. Unless I miss my guess, I would think that if a person needed to have a character check and had to pay the $25 they could claim it as part of their employment expenses. I think it is not unreasonable for them to have that character check, and they could claim that $25.

I cannot agree with the argument that says that we as a community should pick up the $25. This is not the first time that Mr Berry has put this argument. Whether it is a piddling amount of $25, half a billion dollars for VITAB or whatever, Mr Berry seems to have in his mind that someone else should pay. Someone else in this instance is the community. From my understanding, the silent majority would welcome the $25 for police checks so that we make certain we have the best teachers, and we do not fall into the trap, as previous governments around Australia have, of not having the right professional people teaching our children. I will not be supporting the motion.

MR HARGREAVES (11.20): Mr Speaker, there seems to be a bit of a sidetrack here. Nobody in their right mind would advocate not doing police checks for people who are providing services around our children. The issue really comes down to how much people have to pay for them and whether they should have to pay for the checks themselves. It is acknowledged very seriously that people in schools other than teachers also have dealings with kids - janitors, for example. It has been practice for many years that janitors have had police checks done on them to make sure that they are fit people to provide services for our kids. But it has also been known for many years that a janitor gets paid a GSO3 salary approximating $23,000 a year, and it is just not on that someone has to pay $25 to contribute to the possibility of them getting that job. It is all well and good if you are talking about people who are earning $40,000 a year plus. Then we can start talking about the immateriality of a $25 fee. But we are not talking about that as an immateriality. It is very material.

For a job paying $23,000 a year, you have to pay $25 for the police check so that you can go on the list and perhaps get called. It is true that this police check is to be paid for only when you are offered a position. But it does not necessarily mean that the position you are going to be offered will actually bring work to you. There is a list of school assistants and janitors. The placement of your name upon that list constitutes an engagement, but that does not mean that you are going to be called in to work. It does not mean that you are going to be paid a brass razoo for many months to come. It is an impost on these people to charge them $25 for the privilege of applying for their jobs. Mr Speaker, this is the price of a job. How much is the price of a job these days? If you are a janitor in a school, the price is 25 bucks. That is morally wrong. I am not convinced that it is the janitor's responsibility to prove his good character through a means that we impose and at a charge that we impose. I do not think that is very fair at all.


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