Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (27 June) . . Page.. 2364 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
As we move down the road of professionalisation of community service work and require more and more measures of accountability from the community sector, there ought to be an equivalent increase in the resources allocated to pay for that. If community sector organisations start to apply for tenders on the basis of paying a fair wage to their professional workers, will this government pass them over for an organisation which is paying only the award or is relying heavily on unpaid work? These are questions that the government must answer if we are to ensure a decent level of services applies.
It is not fair and realistic to expect people at a high professional level to stay long term working on the front line with the people who are most disaffected if the wages that services are able to provide based on the government funding of services does not keep up with comparable work in other sectors in the ACT and round the country. Rather than putting a percentage aside for public service pay rises, perhaps government could take the initiative here and simply award a flat rate so as to ensure lower paid public servants are well rewarded.
The issue here is one of professionalism and value, how we value the people who work at addressing community need. But the problem is not simply one of pay rates. It is also one of accommodation and resources. I notice that the Junction Youth Health Centre is to be squeezed into the Civic Youth Centre when the new one is built, even though it will barely fit existing demand. The whole Griffin Centre replacement debacle only illustrates that accommodation for community services is never a priority. While we became used to that approach from the Liberal government, it is disheartening to see it being carried on by Labor.
In that context, while the whole of government IT expenditure might appear necessary to the department responsible, it appears enormously indulgent to people working in the community sector or using its services. The real digital divide is between the community sector and government and business, and there appears to be nothing in this budget aimed at bridging that divide.
In conclusion, there is much in this budget which is commendable. Some attempt has been made to face up to revenue matters and there are initiatives I have already addressed. However, the visionary parameters for this government will be set by the implementation of such activities as the Office of Sustainability, the inquiry into education, the affordable housing task force, the response to mental health challenges and so on. The key issues, the ground issues of environmental protection and the status and support of value accorded to the community sector, are yet to be addressed.
MR SMYTH (4.09): There is much to cover in a very short time in this debate. The first point I make is that, although the government claims to have delivered a budget that is honest, open and accountable, so much is hidden or obscured. Several non-government speakers have already alluded to the fact that it is hard to find things the government refer to and do not make clear. So the first thing that goes out the window in this debate is their promise to be honest, open and accountable.
The second thing I want to address is corrections. In the budget there is $50 million for a remand centre next year. But there is no clear direction about what the government intends to do with corrections overall. There is no mention of a prison. This is a worry.