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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1377 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

before about how a number of agencies would have prospective employees actually pay the fee. Certainly, that occurred in the private sector.

When Mr Berry reintroduced this matter as a result of some young bloke bringing it to his attention a couple of months ago, my staff and I made a few checks. We like being a model employer. We found that there were a couple of areas where the fee for the police check was actually paid by government agencies and, wanting to be a model employer, we decided that, if that was the case elsewhere, it should certainly be the case with the Department of Education and Community Services. Accordingly, we are happy to support that part of Mr Berry's motion which calls for the abolition of the fee. As I have indicated in the press release, that will apply forthwith.

One other point I would make is that police checks remain an extremely important part of the way we take care of students in our schools. They are done to ensure that people applying to work in our schools do not have a police record of a nature that could constitute a threat to any student. We will, of course, continue to ensure that checks are conducted before anyone is employed in our schools. I need to make that point quite clear. However, the costs involved will be absorbed by the department. I believe that should end the debate on this matter today.

I thank Mr Berry for his persistence here. We certainly like to regard ourselves as a model employer. It shows that if Mr Berry brings up sensible legislation, the government will accept it, just like I note that yesterday the opposition very sensibly voted with the government in relation to the Bail Amendment Bill. I close by reiterating that we will continue to make these checks as we must do so to safeguard our children, but henceforth the department will bear the cost of those checks and pay for them itself.

MR BERRY (4.30): I wish to speak to the amendment. I will not close the debate yet. I think the government has been a bit oversensitive about the issue. The motion clearly notes that the Agents Amendment Act makes it unlawful to demand or receive a fee. It makes no insinuation that the government was acting unlawfully. I think the government is being a bit precious about wanting to amend the motion for some reason. I was responsible for the legislation. I knew very well that the department was not acting unlawfully. It has been left outside the scope of the legislation because one would hope the government would behave much like private agents out there in the real world.

I do not see any reason to amend the motion, but it does not matter whether it is because the job seekers are not going to be charged any more. I am happy to oppose the amendment, but I make no insinuation about the department, I just want to make that quite clear. I merely draw attention to the fact that the Agents Amendment Act does that and it still will do so, even if the motion is amended, so I am relaxed about that. Mr Stefaniak congratulated me on being persistent and said that he was glad that this change had happened at last and that the government has really responded to pressure-

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the member is now reflecting on the motion.

MR BERRY: I am not finished with it yet. I am just over the moon that it does not take so long to get a tooth pulled out.

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