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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3839 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

enable employers to meet award obligations. We give general support to this motion as it stands.

I repeat that I am happy to restate the government's acknowledgment of the critical work of the government sector, and re-emphasise the commitment to a strong community sector, equipped to deliver quality services to the Canberra community.

MR WOOD (Minister for Urban Services, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services) (4.07): Ms Tucker said that we cannot afford to underestimate the importance of the community sector. Indeed we cannot, and do not-it is a most important sector in our community.

Ms Tucker said that the community sector has to be top priority-I believe it is. It is the most important sector. The government relies on the community sector for the delivery of many of its services-there is no question about that. Successive governments, going back many years, have had a policy of contracting out to community agencies a great amount of their work. A good part of that is in my department-the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services.

Think, for example, of the disability sector and the amount of work contracted out. Bear in mind too that the government, over a period, has played a very significant role in disability housing. It is a good policy to do this, because that is the sector closest to the community, which best understands the people with whom they are dealing and their corner of the community. It is therefore the sector best able to deal with the issues arising there.

It is certainly the case that we should not impose on the community sector. Many of the organisations that we all meet so often began on a voluntary basis, and are still run as voluntary organisations with voluntary boards. Over the years, they have developed considerable expertise. They have become very efficient and more than competent-so the government has been in a position to hand out contracts to them.

Take just one part of that-the various community services such as the Tuggeranong Community Service, the Belconnen Community Service and that range of groups. Between them, they would have a budget in the vicinity of $30 million-perhaps up to $40 million. They have large work forces. Many of them work part time and they do an enormous amount of work-yet each of them is run by a voluntary board.

I believe that, in Canberra, we have been fortunate that we have a very skilled retired work force in the administration area. Many of these boards are well served because of the calibre of the people on them. These boards have built up expertise over a period and are more than competent. They deliver services efficiently, professionally, and with dedication. At one time, in some quarters it might have been thought that all you needed was dedication. That is not the case-we should treat the members of these boards as professionals. We should not regard a board as a body whereby they do the task for the love of it and can therefore carry a larger burden. That is not the view of the government.

The government views these people as professionals and, in accordance with what Ms Tucker says, I agree they should be paid as such. Under the former government, when we moved to purchaser/provider schemes, that system was used-as I heard

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