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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 4454 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

provides a deal for employment and training; that is their responsibility. I do not have those figures with me. They will provide $39 million over the period of this agreement compared with our $188 million. We have increased this money over a period. The former government recognised the need there and in the last year or two of its reign it increased the money it gave. We gave a commitment to provide a substantial increase over the term of this agreement.

Ms Tucker wondered about the Disability Advisory Council. If I understood her correctly, she was saying that it did not have an independent voice or there weren't independent voices there. That is news to me. I hear plenty of strong comment and there is no inhibition on that body in what its members might seek to say. I do not know where that has come from. If Ms Tucker has anything more she would want to add to that, I would be happy to hear it. I might be unhappy to hear it, but I would be happy to take up the issue, because there is no reason why there should not be plenty of loud voices from the group itself and from any individuals within the group. I continue to meet with many people around the disability services area, not just the Disability Advisory Council.

There was quite a deal of comment, understandably, about respite and the carers, and I acknowledge that. FaBRiC, I believe, is not being forced to cut services. There has been no loss of money to them. It is due to the fact that FaBRiC does not have the considerable growth that it sees that it needs. It is not just in that area but in any number of areas. We have been talking to FaBRiC about the way the funds are managed and what they might be doing, but we have not been cutting funds to that body.

A lot has been said about carers and there has been a lot of very proper discussion about the importance of carers in recent times. One of our commitments was to develop a carers policy. There has not been one to date. I can tell you that before the year is out I will be taking a submission to cabinet on a carers policy. We get accused of consulting too much. Maybe that is the case-I do not think that it is-but we established a carers advisory group to take up the notion of developing a policy, to manage that and to take it through and it has been very successful. I am quite happy with the level of discussion and community consultation that we undertook and I think that in due course, before much longer, we will have a good policy.

I should mention some of our objectives and our priorities arising out of this agreement. Of particular importance to the ACT are these: strengthening access to generic services for people with disabilities-use what is there already as much as you can-and strengthening cross-government linkages, which was mentioned by one of the speakers before me, as well as strengthening individuals, families and carers, improving long-term strategies to respond to management demand for specialist disability services and improving accountability, performance reporting and quality.

I am reminded as I give those priorities of the comment by Ms Tucker about the need for therapists. I can say that Mr Quinlan has been quite generous in his funding. He has provided the funds for more therapists. The problem, as Mr Corbell outlined in respect of one thing yesterday, is that try as we might by advertising round Australia and advertising internationally we have difficulty with attracting therapists. There is a problem round Australia and more widely than Australia in finding the speech therapists, for example, that we need. We have been exhausting every avenue to find people who

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