Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 678 ..
That the Assembly takes note of the papers.
MRS BURKE (5.19): The opposition welcomes the government's response to the Gallop report. It is a thorough and considered response to the serious issues raised. The reforms and subsequent amendments to the Disability Services Act 1991 (ACT) (DSA) will see Canberrans with a disability have more choice in their lives to assist them to truly become full and contributing members of the ACT community.
Mr Speaker, the intent of the reforms is to create a system which is responsive to and respectful of the needs and aspirations of people with a disability. It is worthy of note that, according to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report dated 28 February 2003, there are an estimated 39,000 people aged under 65 in the ACT with a disability, and some 10,500 with a severe or profound core activity restriction.
These figures can be expected to increase in future years. Whilst we are broadly supportive, we do have a concern about the points of difference between the government's response and the Disability Reform Group's response, particularly as they relate to the complaints function, statutory powers of the head of Disability ACT, parity of funding to the non-government sector and the term of appointment of the Community Advocate.
Of these, perhaps the most problematic is the issue of parity of funding. While this may sound reasonable enough, the practicalities of it are difficult. We had an example of one of the complicating factors-the SACS award-during debate last year. I also have a concern about whether there will be enough money budgeted for the government's response.
In estimates hearings it was pretty clear that, for this year at least, the new department would have to make do on current funds. I will be interested to see if the government will fully fund its commitments in this response in the next budget. Despite what the government would have us believe, the Liberal government had a strong record of achievement with regard to disability services. The Canberra Liberals increased funding for the disability sector from $25.45 million in 1997-98 to $36.31 million in 2001-02. This equates to an average of just over 10 per cent per annum over a four-year period-well above increases in CPI.
In 1997-98, funding was $25.45 million; in 1998-99, it was $26.23 million; in 1999-2000, $29.90 million; in 2000-01, it was $33.61 million; and in 2001-02, it was $36.31 million. The total growth over four years was 42.7 per cent.
The 2001-02 budget saw the Canberra Liberals allocate extra funding of $2.25 million to disability services; there was $2 million in additional service funding and $250,000 for the disability service improvement scheme, to offer independent advice on client satisfaction and quality of services provided to people with a disability.
Areas where we allocated resources to address unmet need included post-school options, additional therapy services for children with a disability, and a range of respite for aged