Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 613 ..
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (11.01): Mr Speaker, I often thought that Wayne was in a bit of a 1950s time warp. I think from what he was saying today, though, that he probably goes back to 1917. Mr Berry again has completely got the wrong end of the stick on this issue. This is in fact a fee the department has to pay to the police for a police character check. I will just tell Mr Berry a few of the facts. He might listen and learn something.
Firstly, the Department of Education and Community Services is not at all interested in imposing onerous fees upon prospective staff; nor does it seek to create barriers to much-needed employment.
Mr Berry: Why does it charge $25?
MR STEFANIAK: I listened to you in silence, Mr Berry. I would appreciate the same courtesy. To the contrary, what we are on about is putting appropriately qualified people in a position to get the jobs they want; that is, only people who are approved for work and are likely to earn an income are asked to pay the fee. Non-teaching staff have to pay the fee only when they are offered a position. That is right, Mr Speaker - only when they are getting a job.
For teachers, the situation is slightly different, but not so different that they are disadvantaged. Teachers pay the fee when they apply for registration as a teacher in the ACT. This is the first step in seeking employment as a teacher. When a teacher is registered, following the police check, he or she has approval to work as a teacher in the ACT and is given a registration card. That card, Mr Speaker, can then be used by teachers as evidence of their eligibility for employment in the ACT. It is evidence that they have undergone a police check, which is what this is all about. This is of considerable benefit to teachers who might consider applying for employment in another State, as indeed many do. As well, Mr Speaker, competent persons on the relief register obtain regular work at times which suit their own needs and their own lifestyle. Many of them choose to work a lot; many of them choose to work a little. This form of employment does suit the personal requirements of many people on our register.
I want to make it clear, Mr Speaker, that the practice the local Department of Education and Community Services is following is in line with that of nearly every other government education authority in Australia. When a fee is charged for a police check, every State except one passes it on to the applicant.
Mr Berry: Is that for teachers or administrative officers?
MR STEFANIAK: It is exactly the same thing as we are doing. In Victoria it is $24 for a police character check. In Western Australia it is $25 for a police character check. In South Australia $38 applies to applicants for teacher registration and child-care centre licensees. In Tasmania, the Northern Territory and New South Wales there is no charge by police, so there is no fee. If there was no charge by police here, Mr Berry, there would be no fee. The department is just recouping what they have to pay the police. In the Northern Territory there is a $30 fee for a fingerprint check if an applicant is known to the police. In only one State, Queensland, is the fee borne by the department.