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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001-2002 Week 1 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 40 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

Let us also acknowledge the role of the union movement in standing up for due process and humanity in the current debate over asylum seekers coming to our country. These issues are fundamental to how the community views itself and ultimately views us as its elected representatives. I am proud to be a part of a Labor government that values the work of the labour movement, not just in securing rights for working families but also in its involvement in the broader community.

Mr Speaker, I would also like to acknowledge the valuable and often unrecognised work performed by the many community groups that help make Canberra an accessible, healthy and interesting city. There are hundreds of community groups in Canberra, many of which operate on minimal funding or by generous donation. The services provided by these organisations are absolutely vital to the Canberra community. These groups advocate, support and provide services to the many local people who require these services to enable them to access our community. They provide information and education on a myriad of issues to a broad range of people. They provide sporting and cultural activities to all Canberrans and they foster links of friendship and tolerance between this territory and a multitude of nations and cultures around the globe.

The services provided by these organisations are not only necessary, they are indispensable. It is often the work of community groups that enable the marginalised in our society to enjoy their basic human rights and it is these services that ensure that thousands of Canberrans can take an active part in our society, culture and community.

Mr Speaker, community organisations have been adversely affected by years of federal and local Liberal government. The GST, competitive tendering, unrestricted competition policy and purchaser/provider arrangements have pitted community group against community group as they compete for the ever-shrinking government dollar. A strong and well-resourced community sector is achieved by funding quality programs to be delivered by organisations that have the skills and expertise to do so.

Recognising and valuing the work of the not-for-profit sector involves more than token gestures of appreciation handed out to a few individuals. It involves a genuine recognition of the power of the collective work of these organisations to make life better for thousands of people across Canberra. Such recognition should include real support, both financial and structural.

I have been elected as a representative of the Australian Labor Party and it is part of my job to ensure that the core principles of Labor-fairness, justice and equality-which are held deeply in the community are recognised by government, given force and implemented as policy. Let us clearly identify the obstacles to a just society and formulate the policy to remove them so that we can deliver to Canberra the society it deserves.

This Assembly must recognise that no policy is neutral, that it has repercussions for many groups within our community and as such it should be the duty of this Assembly to consider the needs of the entire community when it passes laws for Canberra.

The great British Labour politician, Tony Benn, is said to repeat to himself these wise words whenever he meets someone with power: "What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interest do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable?

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