Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 12 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 3885..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
institutions, property rights, free markets, the rule of law and rule-bound, limited government, and these are things that we need to keep in mind when we are talking about poverty.
The best thing that we can do about poverty is to provide people with jobs. There are still many disincentives for people to enter the work force and it is incumbent upon us all to address them. Effective marginal tax rates pose a number of disincentives to people on unemployment benefits and disability benefits in entering the work force, and these are issues that must be addressed. These are substantially issues for the commonwealth government, and I welcome the debate in the Liberal Party federally on the issue of tax relief and effective marginal tax rates on people who enter the work force. I think these are the most important things we can do.
Member in this place cannot possibly support a progressive expansion of the payroll tax system, although Dr Foskey did make an interesting point: large organisations like McDonalds, for instance, pay payroll tax when they employ low-paid people, but small institutions may have highly-paid people but they do not pay payroll tax. I think that it might be considered an anomaly, but I think it is an anomaly that we will have to live with, because in the long run it is the aim of the Liberal Party to substantially cut our dependence upon payroll tax, because payroll tax is a tax against employment and without employment we will have no chance of alleviating poverty.
MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (5.00): It was my pleasure this morning to open a poverty-proofing forum at Pilgrim House, which was organised as part of Anti-Poverty Week. I make this point because, while we are talking about employment and its relationship to poverty, I think it is important that we put on the record some of the other things that are happening to address poverty.
Poverty is an insidious thing, and tackling the causes of poverty and social exclusion is a significant challenge for any government. In Canberra, many of us enjoy a quality of life that is equal to the best in Australia. It is easy to forget that not everyone shares in that high quality. Despite the fact that unemployment in the ACT at 2.9 per cent is at its lowest in three decades, there are still individuals and families who are vulnerable and disadvantaged. Dr Foskey touched on this in her speech and I congratulate her for putting that stance on the table. For the sake of argument, let us say that our unemployment rate is three per cent. But how many of those three per cent are long-term unemployed? How many of those people see no hope of ever getting themselves out of the poverty trap?
I am sure we would all agree that one measure of a society's compassion and general wellbeing is the way it looks after and cares for its most vulnerable people. The Stanhope government's Canberra social plan, released in early 2004, was a significant step forward in planning ways to address issues of poverty. It was finalised after extensive consultations and sets a new policy framework for partnership with the community in addressing disadvantage and social exclusion.
As part of the implementation of the social plan, the government established the Community Inclusion Board, headed by noted social commentator and researcher Hugh Mackay, to provide additional advice on strategies to deal with the causes of poverty. In