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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1257 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

They did this both in the Assembly under privilege and in the media. This was unacceptable and rather disappointing.

For public servants to do their jobs effectively, they need the confidence of their minister and a working environment where they are not being constantly undermined in public. In years past, Labor did not provide this. Their constant sniping at public servants is on the public record.

In this report, strong specific criticism has been made of several public servants who have been named. The Liberals, in accord with their consistent stand, do not agree with the recommendation that these public servants should lose their jobs. Labor, the Johnny-come-lately party, after years of bagging public servants from opposition, have suddenly also sprung to their defence. This is such shallow behaviour on a government's part.

This report shows the need for improvement in the way disability services are delivered to the Canberra community. The Liberals accept that. However, we do not consider this report to be a bible that must be followed to the letter. Where the current system is not working well and achieving the intended results, changes obviously need to be made. Vision and commitment need to be renewed. There are decisions to be made. It is a role for the Assembly as a whole, not just an individual member or a single party.

One of the important decisions that need to be made is one not to attack the public servants involved in service delivery. In considering this report, let us not pretend that providing appropriate disability services is an easy job. The process of de-institutionalisation began in 1991 in the ACT and took several years to complete. It was a very difficult task to replace a system of institutionalised care with one that is centred on residential group houses. Mistakes have been made and some aspects of policy have proven to be inadequate, but these can be changed. The ongoing task for this Assembly is to achieve meaningful change for the better care and quality of life of these clients, not to attack individuals.

I find it extraordinary that the health minister has been absent for most of this debate, which could indicate his indifference to the ACT health system as a whole and disability services in particular.

MR SMYTH (5.05): I think Ms Dundas got it right when she said, "Let's talk about the nameless ones," and I am pleased to hear Bill Wood say the same. It is those who are least able to look after and defend themselves and how to go about delivering services for them that we should be focussing on here. I go back to this current financial year's budget, in which we put in place programs to assist those trapped in poverty, to break cycles of harm and to make sure that all Canberrans have the sort of lifestyle they deserve. Part of this current year's budget was another 8 per cent increase in the funding of disability services.

It is very easy to say, "You did not care; you did not do anything. That is why we had to have an inquiry." But it is important that people understand the things that were happening under the previous government. There was a 42 per cent increase in disability funding between 1997-98 and this financial year. I welcome the government's commitment to their extra million dollars for disability services, but I would lay down

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