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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5084 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

There are a whole lot of issues that the community sector is covering at the moment above and beyond their usual brief, but they are there because they believe in what it is they are doing and they believe in the community. I think the government needs to provide more support to the community sector to do the job that they are tasked with. It has been disappointing that we have had such frustrating debates about SACS awards, about the contribution the community sector makes, when I think the work done by the community sector, the role that they play in our community, the support they give people are obvious.

We have recently celebrated International Volunteers Day. We have recently celebrated International Disability Awareness Day. These are areas where the government does have a little bit to do, but it is the community sector on the ground, the grassroots organisations, doing most of the work. It is not being afforded, I think, the recognition it is due. There has not been enough support given to the organisations that look after the community to continue with that work.

I think the Minister for Health used a very important word when he talked about the community health building in Belconnen. He talked about investment-the capital works that were being done there was seen as an investment. That is how I think we need to view our community when we are putting resources into it-seeing it as an investment, not as a cost, and supporting the community sector in the investment they put into the community. That is where I think we need to really be talking about what is going on in suburban Canberra and how we can continue to make Canberra the best city to live in. That just isn't going to happen through government services, as important as they are; it is going to happen through the community sector. We need to have that investment focus there.

MR PRATT (12.12): Mr Speaker, the government presents here today a remarkable and rosy picture about the suburban services they believe they are delivering to the ACT. I would certainly make the point that the services are indeed adequate overall, quite good in some areas, not particularly good in many other areas and in too many areas a shade pathetic.

Mr Speaker, I do acknowledge and I do welcome those new services that the government has introduced, that I have been able to observe in the last two years of their time supervising the development and the establishment of services. Yes, our services probably fare well against the national suburban average, and this is a point beyond which we, as a community, should not complain for complaining's sake.

Clever hair-splitting about how we can lift certain suburban services to the supreme plan of excellence is a bit rich and, Mr Speaker, we should never forget that the great majority of people around the world do struggle in some areas to get clean water and to even get adequate shelter.

However, Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that suburban services have deteriorated over time; so we are making a comparative study here. While those services may still be adequate, the question must be asked: why are standards slipping? Why have service standards been allowed to drift gradually away? Is it because we have insufficient funds to maintain general suburban services? Not according to the government's budgetary

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