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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2038 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

stiffen yourself and resist proper consultation against that background, I think exposes you to ridicule. It is surely a ridiculous process when the department writes the letters of congratulations for other people to sign. For heaven's sake, this is 1999.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we saw reports in the Canberra Times and heard evidence that young people, kids, were being used for cleaning in our school system. They were being used as cheap labour. This is back to the coalmine stuff. The reason they were being used was that the lowest contract price for cleaning was being taken by the schools. The end result is that wages and working conditions get forced downwards to the point where children from the family operators are being used in the cleaning of schools. That is the sort of thing that I worry about in the context of this work for the dole program. That worries me considerably. I see the Government's stubborn commitment to this ill-founded program, and I see that they are going to proceed with it. I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that this Minister will be held accountable for this. If there are any moves in this program which offend standards of decency, this Minister will be called to book.

The approach to this committee's report has been most arrogant and inconsiderate. It was a long and difficult inquiry, I found. Quite often people were not willing to speak their mind because of the repercussions of that, but there is stiff resistance, as I see it, within the department. That tells me that there is a political edge on this decision and the department is being forced to do something it does not really want to do. The Executive might say, "We are in charge here". You are not in charge. This is a minority government, as was demonstrated yesterday, and you will get exposed for illegal and unconscionable actions, as you should be.

Mr Speaker, this is a disgusting response to the committee's report to this Assembly. It shows that the Government does not like scrutiny, as has been demonstrated by its response to many other scrutiny reports in this place. I intend to make sure that the Government is held accountable for standards of decency and fair treatment in our education system, and I am sure that my colleagues on this committee will support me in that. Indeed, this was a unanimous report, and the Government ought to take it seriously.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (3.54): Mr Speaker, I just wish we would see a bit of honesty about the approach here. We know that those opposite - Ms Tucker and Mr Berry - do not like the idea of work for the dole. They want to do it in, but they do not have the guts to come forward and say, "We do not like this idea. We think it sucks. We think the Federal Government should stop in its tracks and therefore we oppose it and will vote against it on the floor of the Assembly". That would be a nice up-front, honest approach. Confession is good for the soul, they say.

Why not just come forward and confess your views, rather than go through this convoluted process to knock it off by throwing up conditions and saying that we have to have a review of what is going on here, have further consultation and keep talking to people? There are some people in this town who when we come through the door and start talking to them further about things say, "Oh, my God, not the Government again. We cannot take it. No more consultation, please". They leap out of windows rather than have us talk to them further about these issues. I know Ms Tucker loves consultation.

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