Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 563 ..
a traineeship, should participants be put into primary schools? Obviously those whose core business is education were seriously concerned that it may not be appropriate. That was one of the reasons the committee established the inquiry, responding to community concern about its appropriateness. Even the Federal Government reacted to the department's proposal that the participants would assist with numeracy and literacy and said that that aspect of the proposal had to be removed. Is the Government suggesting that we have no right to challenge where work for the dole participants are going to be placed in our community; that even if there is concern in the ACT community that ACT teachers, children and young unemployed may not benefit, we have no right to look at that?
The response to the section on support for participants and staff also disregards the evidence that came to the committee. It was extremely concerning to see the officials change their proposal regarding school counsellors being available for support of participants. For heaven's sake, we were hearing in the last Assembly in the Social Policy Committee how desperate the need is for more counsellors in the system, and then, without consulting them, they are given a further workload. The department did back down on this, as I have said, and it did highlight the serious problems of the process once again.
The dissenting report then asked, regarding the section on insurance, "Who is SoftLaw?". Mr Hird was part of the committee. He could have asked, Mr Speaker, who is SoftLaw. He could have challenged their opinions, but no, we did not hear one word. Instead of this absurd response we would have liked to have seen SoftLaw's concerns addressed by the Government, but I guess they thought it was easier to just attack the committee. Unfortunately, that is a rather common response from this Government which does them no credit at all. They are looking more and more desperate, using attack rather than argument or logic.
As I said earlier, I am particularly worried that the committee system may be a casualty of these desperate tactics. The Government's unsubstantiated assertions and attacks on this and other reports are not only a threat to the credibility of the committee system here but also an insult to the secretariat, who always work in a professional, thorough and rigorous manner.
Mr Hird: Hear, hear!
MS TUCKER: Mr Hird says, "Hear, hear". (Extension of time granted) How can he possibly say "Hear, hear" to that when he has basically fundamentally challenged the veracity of this whole report? This is a most unusual dissenting report. It actually is not that unusual, but more extreme than usual, even more extremely unacceptable, because basically the statements are either wrong or illogical and the dissenting report contradicts itself. I ask again: How can you dissent from a whole report, but then happily say that you indicated support for significant recommendations, and that it is limited. I think it is a farce, and I am extremely concerned about the implications for democratic processes in this place.