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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2392 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

The one thing I was really surprised about in Ms Follett's speech was the comment that somehow the Chief Minister's Department was not spending enough money. I must admit that I assumed the criticism would be the other way round. We believe that by bringing the three departments together we have achieved significant efficiencies that will allow us to make significant savings over the next three years.

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (5.15): I will continue with my comments on this particular area of the budget. Mrs Carnell mentioned in her comments that certain personnel functions had been devolved back to departments. I believe that in devolving policy areas like equal employment opportunity and access and equity she has done the most enormous disservice both to her own employees and to the Canberra community. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that those issues need a central monitoring and policy-setting area if they are going to come into effect at all. Those centralised areas were brought in only because of the known failure of the devolved approach.

Mr Speaker, I believe the Liberals have no interest whatsoever in EEO or in access and equity. They have demonstrated their credentials over and over again. I think their sexist behaviour in this chamber says it all. The Government having devolved those kinds of policy areas, we can expect from this Government absolutely no commitment whatsoever to those groups, either among employees or in our community, who need the Government to take positive discriminatory steps in order to ensure that they get a fair go. Mrs Carnell has denied that completely.

A further major problem that I see with the Chief Minister's Department is the total dismantling of the social justice programs that had been very carefully built up over the years so that we had in that central department a package of policy areas that, together, worked to produce social justice for the Canberra community. Those areas included things like the women's policy area, the youth area, the disability area, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander area, programs for the disabled and the aged, and so on. Together, those policy areas worked within the Chief Minister's Department, amongst other things, to ensure that all of the other administrative units actually were up to scratch on social justice issues. Under Mrs Carnell that social justice machinery has just been wiped out, absolutely disbanded, dismantled.

One of the problems that both the Estimates Committee and other serious commentators on this budget had was being totally unable to track what had happened to those crucial programs and subprograms. It was almost impossible. In fact, Mr Speaker, at one stage in the course of the Estimates Committee, when I was questioning Mrs Carnell on what had happened to the women's policy area, the disabled area and so on, she said in her sarcastic way, "We do not have programs for short people either". That just demonstrates a total misunderstanding of the whole notion of social justice and the need for governments to take action. Mr Speaker, the Government has taken a very retrograde step. My colleague Ms McRae might want to speak about that matter as well.

I pass on and talk about the labour market programs, which used to be accommodated within the Chief Minister's Department. Again, one of the fundamental problems with examining the budget was the complete impossibility of finding those labour market programs in the budget documentation. Mr Speaker, that problem was compounded by the apparent complete inability of the relevant Minister, Mr De Domenico, to explain

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