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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 April 2021) . . Page.. 1011 ..

In conclusion, the recent budget process has left many in the community services sector worried. For years Labor and the Greens have, together, failed to fund community services in a way that has kept pace with simple population growth, resulting in cuts to services at a time when those services are in greater demand than ever before

This is fiscal madness. It is always cheaper to address issues in the early stages before they reach a crisis point. It is much better for people too. Far too many in our overflowing prison are those who failed to get the counselling that they needed when they experienced violence in their childhood homes—those allowed to repeatedly fail youth justice orders, those inappropriately placed in a wrong residential care setting, those whose families were not allowed to have a real say in child protection matters and so on.

Table 38 in the budget statement for Community Services shows a decrease in grants and purchased services of nearly $14 million between 2022 and 2024. When I asked the assistant minister about this, she replied in writing that the government is currently undertaking a sustainability review to determine “what the funding for the sector should look like from 2022-23 onwards. This is why it shows a projected decrease”. Well, at least Labor and the Greens seem to have an actual plan this time—review funding under the guise of sustainability but clearly project a decrease in the meantime.

Is it any wonder why those who serve this city’s most vulnerable are worried? I can assure this Assembly that the group of stakeholders who met in my office last week are deeply concerned about this government’s approach to community services and whether they can even provide essential services, going forward. I share their concerns. Essential services are just that—essential. They need adequate funding and without this funding people suffer and our community struggles. This cannot and must not be our future. All Canberrans deserve more from this budget.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (5.38): I do not know if it is the last week of work that I have spent occupied in the sports and recreation space or if it is the last speaker who has invoked in my head my dad’s words on the first day I had in this job—play the ball and not the man. I am going to make every effort in my contribution to this debate to do just that. I am going to highlight the shortcomings that I identified in this budget and I am going to emphasise some of the great opportunities and great new spending.

I appreciate and I accept that investment made particularly in the Community Services Directorate is incredibly personal. The work done by the directorate and the people that work with and for the directorate provides support to some of the most vulnerable Canberrans, and that rightfully invokes strong emotion. But I remind all members to ensure that their contributions to the debate on community services and vulnerable Canberrans is done in a genuine and earnest spirit to improve outcomes rather than playing petty, nasty politics.

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