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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2134 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

P&C was advised on or about the same day. Primary principals were consulted once the initial concept was identified but were not given detail and later rejected the proposal. None of the unions representing staff working in schools were consulted before the proposal was submitted. The School Board Forum was not consulted before the application was submitted. In fact, only the Chamber of Commerce was given any earlier notice, which is interesting, considering their core business is not education. How can you possibly stand by your claim that you have complied with the consultation protocol?

MR STEFANIAK: Ms Tucker, I am rather amazed at that question. Evidence was given before your committee that an application had to be made fairly quickly and that to go through a full and extensive consultation before you did that would probably mean that you would not get past first base because the application would be too late. Further evidence was given of considerable consultation, indeed ongoing consultation, and we actually took notice of some of the concerns during that process. Sure, a lot of that might have been after the application went in. One concern expressed by a number of people who were consulted was that young people used in this scheme would be involved with children in the classroom. Accordingly, that was changed, and I think rightly so. That just shows the result of sensible consultation. But as for a whole swag of consultation before the application went in, quite clearly the evidence said that that simply was not possible in the time given.

MS TUCKER: I ask a supplementary question. The Minister has not answered the question. Obviously, they did not comply. He is saying they did not comply with the consultation protocol because this was a different process and they wanted to get the application in. Is the Minister aware of the fact that one of the criteria that the Federal Government puts up for work for the dole projects is that they must enjoy community support? As you did not ask any of the key stakeholders whether or not they liked what you were proposing to the Federal Government for the work for the dole project, how could you have said that it enjoyed community support, which you must have said, because it is a criterion for the project?

MR STEFANIAK: My understanding of that, Ms Tucker, is that work for the dole generally in Australia has considerable community support. Even the Federal Opposition support it. There is also considerable support for similar projects in the United Kingdom. What is your definition of "community"?

Mr Corbell: "Community" is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

MR STEFANIAK: They certainly supported it, Mr Corbell. My understanding is that the P&C certainly did not have any great problems with it either. I do not expect the Australian Education Union to agree with a Howard Government proposal only a few months out from an election. Quite clearly, they had an ideological problem with it. Certainly not all members of the community support it, Ms Tucker. I do not think you can expect that of any proposal. The concept of work for the dole and, I would suggest, this program would have had considerable support in wide sections of the community. I think that probably remains the case. I also stress, Ms Tucker, that it is voluntary. It is voluntary for the schools also. It is up to them whether they want to pick it up or not.

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