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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3041 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

A joint response from all states and territories was signed by ministers and sent to Senator Vanstone on 21 August 2002. The letter indicated that, whilst the offer of $125 million over the life of the next agreement was a welcome step in the right direction, in percentage terms it represented less than half of the Commonwealth's commitment to growth in funding for accommodation and support services under the current agreement.

Therefore, ministers are seeking a Commonwealth offer which will maintain the funding share under the current agreement. So they are seeking closer to twice the amount currently on the table. The ministers said their concerns were echoed by calls from families in the disability sector, for all governments to provide adequate funding for unmet demand, population growth and indexation.

Mr Speaker, the ACT is committed to continuing multilateral negotiations with the focus on the best possible outcomes for people with disabilities and their families. In their letter, the ministers have called for an urgent meeting with Senator Vanstone to recommence negotiations over the Commonwealth offer.

I understand Senator Vanstone has replied to ministers just today, without addressing any of the concerns raised by the states and territories; that she has not agreed to a meeting, and that she is insisting that the Commonwealth's offer of $125 million is the final offer.

It is the view of every state and territory, and the view of objective commentators in relation to this, that the Commonwealth's offer is half of the commitment it made to meet the growth needs within the disability sector. It is of major concern to all states and territories and all service providers in the disability sector that the Commonwealth is quite clearly reneging on commitments it made previously to ensure that the growth needs within the disability sector would be met. As far as the states and territories are concerned, as things stand, the Commonwealth is set to underfund the states and territories, including the ACT, by at least 50 per cent.

MS GALLAGHER: Minister, has Commonwealth funding for unmet need been passed on to all agencies, despite claims to the contrary by Senator Vanstone?

MR STANHOPE: Yes, Senator Vanstone certainly has. We have become quite firm friends-Senator Vanstone and I-but she is gilding the lily. Disability ACT has indeed become aware that a letter signed by Senator Vanstone, implying that funding provided by the Commonwealth to alleviate unmet need in the territory has not been passed on to agencies, has been sent to a number of ACT agencies.

Senator Vanstone put the case that, despite this additional funding and a further proposed 6 per cent increase in the new agreement, the ACT had not responded to her offer. Disability ACT knows that the senator has sent the same letter to the other states and the Northern Territory.

I want to state quite categorically that the ACT has sent information out to agencies disputing these claims and stating that all funds allocated by the Commonwealth have been distributed appropriately to the community sector. Senator Vanstone is simply wrong.

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