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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 1850 ..

MS McRAE (11.26): I would like to speak in support of the motion. Because I think the debate has been unfortunately skewed in the wrong way, I would like to begin by putting on record that this is not a debate about the Richmond Fellowship. I would like to put on record that I have absolutely no objection to the non-profit private sector running these shelters or any other services in the ACT. I think it is highly unfortunate that discussion of one versus the other has been raised.

The real issue of significance here is Government responsibility. We talk about the needs of these children, but the instability about the future of the children was not begun two weeks ago. It was begun, we hear now, six months ago by people making inquiries. It was begun not by any evaluation process, not by any objective analysis - we asked about that in question time - not by any overriding concern, but by some search to find a way to deliver a service in a cheaper way.

Now, six months down the track, we hear that the children had nothing to do. Why was that problem not solved? We heard Mr Stefaniak say that the children had nothing to do and that the Richmond Fellowship offered them something to do during the day. That is a responsibility that should have been dealt with. It was not until today that we heard anything sensible at all from the Minister. Even then, more questions have been left unanswered than have been answered. I have not yet heard of objective evaluative analysis that says categorically that the government sector could not run the service and run it well. It has been decided that a particular organisation can do it better. It comes back to a process of Government responsibility for what the Government offers the young ones of the ACT. What has this Government done? It began talks. After pressure, not before, it decided to go to tender. What this motion is about is looking at the level of Government responsibility to this service and then looking at the process by which the Government is delivering its responsibility.

The question is: Why should the Government oppose this motion? There is more in it for the Government than against it. If there was no problem with the process of tendering out, if there was no problem with the handing over of the service, if there was no problem with the changeover, then why does the Government not allow the Social Policy Committee to put all these things on the public record to remove the odium from around the debate and to allow everyone concerned to argue their case?

The argument about the children, as Michael Moore said, is an emotive argument. The staff is there. The staff will remain there. The staff may change over in November; it may change over in December. Four more weeks is not going to make any difference; but it will assure everyone concerned that the process was undertaken correctly, that the Minister had good reason to tender out and that everyone will benefit from the change. This is what this inquiry will enable to happen. It will in fact assist the Government. It will not hurt anybody. I find that unnecessary and irrelevant nonsense. The staff is there. The service is there. An inquiry is not going to make any difference to what is happening now. This inquiry is to finish on 14 December. The children are staying in the care of the current staff until 7 November and then the Richmond Fellowship takes over.

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