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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1374 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

It is possible to approach this in a number of ways. For example, the New South Wales government, after the last state election, conducted a drug summit as its way of embarking on the process of reform or experimentation in the area of drug abuse. Having observed that process and having seen the exercise that was undertaken in the ACT between 1999 and 2000 by the poverty task group, I believe that the process outlined in this motion is infinitely more able to address the issues and problems drawn attention to by this motion than is a drug summit.

To refresh the memories of members, in March 1999 a task group was appointed at the instigation of the ACT Council of Social Service. That was followed in May 2000 by a first paper, a report of the poverty task group on community consultation. The core of this exercise was that there should be the broadest possible opportunity to seek the views of people with relevant experience and opinions on the incidence of poverty.

The task group itself was very large; it consisted of 20-25 people. That is larger than you would normally expect to be functionally effective, but in this case it worked well because an extraordinarily broad range of views and backgrounds was represented on the group. Membership changed at various points, but every appropriate attempt was made to capture a relevant view about what was going on in the community with respect to poverty.

It produced that report on the community consultation phase of the exercise in May 2000 and followed that with a number of papers that looked into other phases. Importantly, there was an empirical, scientific attempt to gather information about the incidence of poverty. That was conducted by NATSEM, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra. There was also a report of the results of service provider data collection. Data from a number of service providers in the ACT was incorporated and used as a basis for making assessments. That was followed, in December 2000, by a final report of the task group outlining a series of recommendations.

The government responded in April 2001, and the May 2001 budget contained a number of initiatives that were picked up directly from the recommendations of the task group. It took a long time. It took the best part of two years from go to whoa. It was a very large body, and it was quite expensive. But it met community expectation that these problems should be examined carefully, dispassionately and thoroughly, and it produced some enduring answers to the question of poverty in the ACT.

I will not pretend that an enduring answer to the question of the abuse of drugs will be easy to come by. It is a question of tremendous difficulty, as has been outlined in the debate tonight, and I do not expect any one body-no matter how well constituted and with however much time or however many resources-to get to the bottom of issues that bedevil all of Western society at the present time. But I think the approach adopted by this motion is the right one to take. It is better than the one-off, glare-of-publicity approach of the drug summit in New South Wales in 1999. It is a slow and systematic

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