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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 3023 ..

Report on Social Policy Issues Raised by Community Groups -
Government Response

Debate resumed from 20 September 1995, on motion by Mrs Carnell:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MS TUCKER (11.36): Mr Speaker, this report may seem like history now; but there are some very important issues here, particularly in the light of the first Liberal budget. In responding to the Government's response to the first Social Policy Committee report, I have to say that I am disappointed about the lack of a comprehensive strategy for social policy in the recent budget. Mrs Carnell's Government has provided a very clear economic strategy for the ACT, yet this has not been integrated with social or environmental strategies.

An ad hoc approach to social policy is not good enough and this is why the committee has been so concerned about coordination in this area. The Community Relations Branch has been given this brief under the new Administrative Arrangements. The Government's response to this report - this is reflected in the budget performance indicator for this subprogram - indicates that the Community Relations Branch has responsibility for developing policy to come up with better outcomes for people of non-English-speaking backgrounds, women, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. I wholeheartedly support the Government's commitment to this area, but this does not amount to an overall strategy to integrate our social policies with economic strategies. It is not mapping a course and setting out priorities in the broad and complex area that makes up social policy. I ask the Government again: How will this unit ensure that the social impact of the Government's policies is considered in a coordinated way? This is fundamental to good management.

I will comment briefly on some of the specific recommendations. As chair of the committee, I am pleased to see general agreement about the recommendations, and it is always good to see some immediate action. I commend the Government's commitment to developing an ACT government information policy and look forward to seeing the draft report. As for mandatory reporting, there was a lot of attention given to this in the budget as the money set aside falls far short of what has been recommended by several reports as being necessary for the full-scale introduction of this policy, although we acknowledge that the Government is making a start. Child abuse is a very serious issue for our society; but it is essential that people have confidence in the system, and Family Services cannot meet its case management load as it is. If mandating is introduced and does bring a significant increase in reporting, the support services must be in place, and this can only mean extra resources.

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