Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 619 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Obviously, workers in other areas of government also have cause to deal with children, or otherwise from time to time need to have their criminal status ascertained in order for them to do their work - that is granted - but not to the same degree as workers within the Department of Education, particularly workers in schools. There is a very significant onus on the department that needs to be discharged.
We could pass the motion today and we could strongly urge the Government to go away and find the $50,000 that the Minister referred to and free the people who are making these applications from the cost of having police checks done. Let us be realistic about this, Mr Speaker. That $50,000 is going to have to come from somewhere else in Education. It is $50,000 which would otherwise be used to employ probably two or three part-time teachers or to deliver some education services to our community. It is easy for us to be generous in this place and not ask somebody to pay a $25 fee. Incidentally, this fee is almost certainly going to be tax deductible, so the actual cost is going to be lower than $25. It is a cost the department has to incur, so it is going to have to find that money from somewhere. It is easy for the Assembly to say, "Do not ask the employee to meet the $25 fee. Get the department to dip into their big pit of money and just draw it out". But that source of money pays for teachers. It pays for education services in our community. It pays for things that are important. I, for one, would rather see that money spent on things which deliver to our community, not on the incidental process of delivering services. That is what I would rather see the $50,000 spent on. I would hope that members in this place would also take that view.
It is not unreasonable, with such a large volume of people passing through the hands of the department, for it to defray that cost by asking the people concerned, who almost always go on to be employed and meet the cost of that $25 from the payments that they receive as teachers or as other workers within the school system, to bear that cost. In many other areas of employment you are asked to bear costs associated with taking up employment. Many people in other areas of work have to meet costs associated with clothing and uniforms, transport costs and all sorts of other costs associated with their obtaining or taking up employment. I do not believe that in this case it is unreasonable to associate some costs with that matter, particularly as the alternative is taking the money out of the provision of education services to people.
Members should also be aware that the AFP does not have a great deal of flexibility about the charging in this matter. The AFP, through this fee, is gaining access to the police national names index and the fingerprint system, which is a national responsibility under the national exchange of police information, or NEPI, system. That means that when you check somebody's fingerprints or their name in the ACT you can ascertain what record they might have in another place in Australia - in Queensland, Western Australia or wherever. It is important to have that comprehensive information. Access to that by the Australian Federal Police is on a user-pays basis. They cannot avoid that cost. Therefore, if the AFP do not charge for it, it is a cost to them, a cost which will come out of policing in the Territory. Alternatively, if the AFP charge but we do not have Education recouping the cost from temporary teachers, the department in turn will have to meet that cost from its own resources.