Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1070 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
organisation to deliver because of financial constraints. When I have rung the organisations concerned I have been told, "We would love to help. We can see their need, but we can help them only if we reduce the services we offer to others", or, "I am sorry; at present we are taking no new cases". In the end, needy people miss out on much needed services.
Now we hear from the Chief Minister that there is no new money; that we have reprioritised the money. Yesterday I carefully and deliberately phrased a question to ask whether new money would be provided to this sector. I am aware of the claims of the need to reduce the operating loss. I well remember the times in Labor Cabinets when we worked to bring down those costs, and, mind you, the times when the now Chief Minister and her party declined to support us. I know the financial imperatives, but my question still asked whether new money was to be provided to fund the SACS award. I know the financial imperatives, but my question still asked whether new money was there. The Government has to be careful about its expenditures, I know; but, if it wants to justify its claim to being a caring government, this is one area where new money should be found.
Yes, I know that in this budget there is some attention to mental health, and that is good; but the services provided under this award are those which give assistance to the intellectually and physically disabled, offering personal care, the most personal care. They facilitate recreation activity and education programs. They give respite to carers - those people, usually family members, who devote their own time to caring for the aged and infirm and who are often worn down by the constant attention. These services care for neglected people, for abandoned people, young and old, for those with mental health problems, and those with drug and alcohol problems. These services care for young people, often those having trouble accommodating to the adult world. These services are directed to those in our community who most need help. The workers who provide these services work in the most challenging circumstances. Notwithstanding the difficulties, they continue this task with a high level of dedication.
If there is an area which requires additional money, this is it. If there is one which did not need to be squeezed, this is it. Surely, when reprioritising, a government that is claiming to provide a caring city should look after its most vulnerable residents first. This Government has given them a good kick instead. There is to be no new money. The organisations in this field await the advice on the means by which the award will be funded - funded to allow services preferably to expand, or at least to continue at the same level, and funded also to provide wage justice to the workers.
MS TUCKER (3.39): I noticed that in the budget speech Mrs Carnell said that this was about responsible economic management. I think she said also that Mr Osborne had supported her in seeing that as an important goal for government. I want to put on the record that, of course, the Greens also want to see responsible economic management. As usual, though, while we say yes to responsible economic management, we have to challenge the Government's definition of what is responsible economic management.