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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 618 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

It is true that we need to have these checks to make sure that these people look after our kids in the proper manner. It is also our responsibility as a community to make sure that the people we put into these positions are people of good character. It is part of the selection process. If the cost of that selection process is the cost of the interviewers, the cost of the report writing and the cost of the advertisement, it ought to include the cost of a police check. This is an additional cost to a person asking for a job. It is our responsibility to recruit these people. It is our responsibility to cough up the $25.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.23): Mr Speaker, I want to contribute a little bit to this debate. I think it has been unfortunate that we have the context of the debate being set by Mr Berry talking about people slopping caviar from their tables and making references to class warfare and so on. It is an unfortunate kind of reference. It is indicative, I suppose, of a desire to chase the pettier elements of the ACT's political debate and ignore bigger issues.

I notice on the notice paper, for example, that the next item for discussion is the Territory's operating loss, a $150m problem this community faces which will very much determine the kind of lifestyle that our children will live and how far we are able to improve the future economic and social - and I emphasise "social" - outlook of the ACT. This is the sort of issue on which we will take decisions today. There are huge issues involved in that. There are issues about what we do to discharge our duty as members of this place, as representatives of the people of the ACT, to deliver better lifestyles for our community. Dealing with that operating loss is a critical issue in that respect. But what are we debating at the moment? We are debating a $25 fee for people to obtain - - -

Mr Berry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think Mr Humphries is reflecting on the ordering of the notice paper by the Administration and Procedure Committee.

MR SPEAKER: No, I cannot uphold that.

MR HUMPHRIES: No, I am not reflecting on that at all, Mr Speaker. You can do a lot better than that on a point of order, Mr Berry. I am reflecting on the fact that the Labor Party seems to be focused on the small picture when in fact there are much bigger issues in the Assembly today.

Mr Berry: Small issues for small people.

MR HUMPHRIES: It is a small-minded view about those matters, Mr Speaker. We have other issues. The issue here is what the department does to recoup the costs of a fairly expensive process of obtaining police checks on the people concerned.

I do not think it is questioned in this debate that those checks need to be conducted. Teachers and anybody else working in a school - janitors, administrative staff or whoever - come into contact with children as a matter of course, and it is appropriate that those people be scrutinised, as far as their criminal records are concerned, to make sure that they are appropriate people to be working in that environment. It is important to note, however, that the onus that falls on the Department of Education in this respect is a much heavier onus than that which falls on any other area of government.

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