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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 621 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Mr Stefaniak accused Mr Berry of politicising this sensitive issue. I think if anyone has done that it is the Government, by choosing that administrative process to charge the citizen for. Obviously, they can then come out with rhetoric such as that we have just heard: "This is about protecting our children. We should charge for this. The welfare of our children is at stake. These are the services that you want delivered to your children. The services will not be delivered if we do not charge the citizen who wants to apply for the job. We will have a loss of services". There were similar arguments with the SACS award as well. It is quite unacceptable to tie conditions of workers to service delivery. Mrs Carnell said to me on several occasions, "If we do give workers good conditions, which disability home do you not want to exist, Ms Tucker?". It is a very poor argument. It is very emotive and political, and it is not acceptable.

If we are going to decide to charge for administrative processes, I would like to see a much better thought out argument about which ones and why. I reject the whole proposal, because I do not think government can come up with an argument. This is an opportunistic way of reducing some of the cost imposts of that particular department. I do not know whether this is a Government decision or something that came out of the bureaucracy, who are feeling very pressured to make their budget look good; but it appears to be quite ad hoc, because I also do not accept the arguments coming from the Government that teachers are the only ones or the main ones who have a huge responsibility with children. Obviously, we have public servants working in nursing, as doctors and in Family Services as well. They are public servants who have huge responsibilities for the care of children.

It does not appear to be consistent at all. When I first saw it, I was wondering what the rationale for it was. Is it for all people who work with children? No, it does not apply to all people who work with children. Is it for people just looking for casual work? Obviously not. Does everyone who applies for the Public Service have to pay for their own police check where it is necessary? It appears not. I am really disappointed and concerned at the application of this principle, particularly in this area. As I said, I think the Government is taking advantage of people's concern about children, paedophilia and the whole lot. That is high in the consciousness of our community. They are using that as an excuse to levy this particular charge.

I notice that Mr Humphries was offended by Mr Berry's statements about the economic situation of people who would be applying for these positions. He wanted me to understand that he was acknowledging that some people will be disadvantaged and quite financially desperate. That, I thought, was the point that Mr Berry was making. Of course there will be people who do not choose part-time work just to supplement their income. In some way Mr Humphries was almost implying that it was a bit of a luxury for many people. That is not my personal experience of people seeking part-time work, particularly women, who, with the current child-care charges and so on, find it very difficult to make it legitimate to work full time. Nevertheless, they are in need of supplementing their income, and it is far from a luxury that they are applying for part-time employment.

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