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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 616 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

is not levied. In Western Australia the Department of Health and Family Services classifies police checks as a standard recruitment overhead, and the new employee is not levied. In South Australia the Department of Community Services classifies police checks as a standard recruitment overhead, and a new employee is not levied.

In the ACT, however, we are in a unique position compared to other governments. Education and community services are under the one umbrella. My concern is that there is a grey area and that we risk the levy creeping into community service organisations. On that basis I think it would be unfair for employees in our Community Services to be slugged the $25 when the levy is not applicable to people working in this area elsewhere in the country.

Mr Speaker, I do understand that education departments in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory would reconsider their position on levies for new employees if the police began charging for criminal record checks. This is what has happened in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and it is fair and reasonable that this is what happened in the ACT. However, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have displayed a sign of good faith to employees in the important but often unheralded community services area by absorbing the cost of police checks. I believe that we have to encourage and not discourage people from entering the community service fields. Mr Speaker, I would seek an undertaking from the Minister that the levy will be excluded from the community service areas of employment.

MR HIRD (11.13): Mr Speaker, I have listened to all sides of the argument, and I have to say that I agree with my colleague Mr Stefaniak that the $25 really is a cost which is borne by the Education Department. The police do the character checks of applicants for a job at a cost of $25 to the education authorities. However, in this debate on police checks three vital groups have not been addressed. The first group, the students, should have at their disposal at all times the best possible teachers the Government can provide. They should have confidence in the qualifications and the bona fides of their teachers. In the second group are parents. In recent times the Australian Government has gone to great lengths to bring someone back to Australia because of alleged paedophilia activities, which are yet to be proven in court. There are also a number of other actions before the courts throughout Australia involving teachers. It is reasonable to assume that students, parents and the third group - teachers - should have full confidence in those people who undertake the profession of teaching. If that means that a fee of $25 should be paid - I understand from what the Minister said that the fee is payable only when a job is obtained - then that, to me, is worthwhile insurance on behalf of those three groups.

I cannot see why Mr Berry has taken issue with this, as he puts it, meagre charge. I think the silent majority - students, parents and teachers - have a right to know that those teaching or working in that industry have the highest bona fides and indeed that they have the respect of the community. I think the $25 fee is $25 well spent as insurance that persons who undertake teaching as a profession are honourable and above reproach, in light of what has happened in recent years within the teaching profession, in particular with children.

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