Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2032 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
The inquiry commenced in October 1998, while intensive planning was under way in preparation for a start in February this year. The inquiry effectively blocked any further work. Mr Speaker, it has taken the majority members some five months to complete their report - five months.
The majority members, by recommending that industry-recognised training be provided, have clearly misunderstood that work for the dole is not a vocational training program. But it is a worthwhile work experience initiative to give young unemployed some worthwhile employment, some dignity and some confidence. The majority members of the committee should appreciate and know the value of pre-vocational courses and structured work experience for the long-term unemployed. These opportunities provide a valuable preparation and support for industry-accredited training and employment.
Mr Speaker, as I have said, the work for the dole scheme is not a vocational training course. It is something else. It is a project which provides long-term unemployed young people with a means of entry or re-entry into the work force through structured and supported work experience. Participants would be employed on tasks that would provide a real and valued contribution to schools. The Government feels that all this is ignored in the report. The project is criticised not for what it is but for what the majority members believe it ought to be.
Another disappointing feature of the majority report is that it ignores information provided by the Government and my department. Consideration of that advice would have provided a proper balance. Instead, the majority members have focused narrowly on information which supports their preconceived ideas. For example, a great deal is made of what we see as irrelevant information on insurance. There are lengthy quotations from a particular submission in order to make points that are unnecessary. The report completely excludes relevant information detailing the comprehensive and fully adequate insurance cover provided by the Commonwealth and ACT governments. It is just absent from the report. This is an unfortunate example of majority members making the facts fit what we see to be their predetermined views. It carries the bizarre implication that neither the Commonwealth nor the ACT government is capable of managing insurance matters.
Similarly, information provided to the committee by my department on the development of a detailed selection process has not been given due weight by the majority members. They have not appreciated the need to develop the selection process in conjunction with schools at the appropriate time. The majority members can make unfounded criticisms of consultation, but apparently they have not appreciated the need to develop the project in consultation with schools. Furthermore, the majority report fails to acknowledge that the timing of the inquiry seriously inhibited the ability of my department to develop selection procedures.
A more disturbing issue is the underlying suggestion that the project is a threat to schools. The segment in the report that deals with support for the project is used to generate all kinds of anxiety and concerns. The majority report questions whether schools can cope with this kind of project. Mr Speaker, it is fundamental to this project that schools' participation is entirely the choice of school communities - the school board, the principal and the staff. The majority members of the committee appear to have a very low opinion of the judgment of school communities. The implication of the