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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 2682 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

I totally agree with the approach that the Federal Government is taking to bring these two together with one database so that a client will have one file. Apparently, that approach does produce some redundancies in the IT area. I have to say that, if that was all it was, I would not be so concerned because I know that right at the moment there are a huge number of unfilled IT jobs in the ACT and I am absolutely confident that anybody with IT skills would be picked up immediately.

I have to say, however, that at this stage I am not convinced that that is where it stops. I would agree totally with, I think, members on both sides of politics in the ACT who have made the point very clearly that any reduction in service from Centrelink is simply unacceptable. In fact, the problems with the Centrelink service have been real. In other words, the service is not good enough. It should be getting better, not worse. I have spoken to the Prime Minister, I have spoken to Jocelyn Newman, the senior Minister, and I will have a meeting with Warren Truss, the junior Minister responsible, in the next couple of weeks to discuss this matter more fully.

As members would be aware, the redundancies fall into, I suppose, a number of bits. The number of redundancies for the first year has been announced, or the first part has been announced, and I certainly hope that we will be able to convince the Federal Government that the number of redundancies in the ACT is simply too high.

MR STANHOPE: I ask a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Can the Chief Minister tell the Assembly when she became aware of the job cuts at Centrelink and whether or not she has had any responses to the representations that she has made and the discussions she has had with the Prime Minister and Senator Newman? Can she tell me whether or not she believes that any significant steps can be taken to mitigate the effects of the staff cuts?

MS CARNELL: I can say I am not just going to sit on my hands and say, "Oh, well, you know, the decision has been made". I became aware of it, I think, when the Canberra Times printed, a few days before the announcement of the numbers, that there would be an announcement. At that stage, I lobbied Jocelyn Newman's office to ensure that the ACT was not going to be treated unfairly. I have to say that at that time I was assured that that would be the case, but that is not what happened in the end. I have certainly made my position on that very clear.

I would be the first to admit that, so far, we have not convinced the Federal Government to change their mind. Mind you, Bob Carr has not managed to make the Federal Government change their mind with the downsizing in New South Wales, Peter Beattie has not managed to get the Federal Government to change their mind with the downsizing in Queensland and Jeff Kennett has not managed to make the Federal Government change their mind on the staff cuts in Victoria. So, I have to say, it does not make us unique.

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