Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1069 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Demand for our service this winter has been higher than ever before and without assistance we face the sad prospect of not being able to help all the people who are coming to us.
I hear this story everywhere. According to the general manager, over 30 per cent of low-income families are not using heating because they cannot afford to pay for it. Yet this low-income group is the group that the Government has chosen to attack in the budget in several ways. The group that most needs help gets only a slug from this budget. The exception is the concessional motor vehicle registration fees.
Firstly, ACT Housing tenants will have their rents raised until all are paying 25 per cent of their income. In order to raise an extra $2m, the Government will squeeze the group that is often genuinely financially vulnerable, and squeeze it until it is completely dry. I quote the general manager again:
For people already struggling with high rent costs, the added costs of warm clothes, blankets, heating and hearty meals needed during colder months can make winter a real time of crisis.
And now rent costs are set to become even higher. The Government seems to think it is a relatively small amount. Well, it is not small to those tenants, and remember that, while some places may be colder than Canberra, we have the largest population in Australia living in such cold winter conditions.
Secondly, the steep rise in registration fees for larger cars such as station wagons will also impact on this group. Older, heavier, larger cars are cheaper to buy - though not to run - than smaller, lighter, more modern cars. People who are struggling financially often drive these older, heavier cars and they will now be hit with a large increase in their registration fees, and that on top of the higher cost of leaded petrol. Of course, they can always apply to pay their fees in two smaller six-monthly instalments, but they have to be prepared to pay extra for that privilege. If the Government's intention is to encourage people through these punitive increases to upgrade to new, smaller, lighter cars, what about some financial assistance to help people do so? Big families and families on tight incomes will not be able to afford to upgrade without assistance. Life is just going to get harder for them.
Thirdly, the Government has not addressed the issue of about 300 organisations in the ACT community sector which employ between 1,500 and 2,000 employees. Approximately 1,000 to 1,500 employees will be affected by the implementation of the new SACS award. The organisations have asked the Government for additional funding so that they can meet their new obligations without having to cut services to those who need them. The alternative is to try to increase the load on their already overworked and underpaid staff, or to stop offering some services. This means job losses and a tougher life for those already in difficulty.
Employees in the community sector are not well paid. Neither they nor their clients, the people they care for, need this additional stress. This area is already underresourced and underfunded, but overstressed. I receive many calls from constituents who complain that their all too genuine needs are not being met because of the inability of the relevant