Page 689 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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The board of inquiry made a total of 50 recommendations for reform intended to result in significant changes to affect the quality of services and quality of life for people with disabilities. I suggest that we do not need any more talkfests about the gaps in the system. We need action. Actions speak louder than words. There is some really good stuff on paper, but it is being said over and over again. I have the four reports here. Many things are repeated over and over.

I would, first of all, like to mention the public servants whose job it is, or was, to compile these reports—indeed, this final report. It has obviously taken many hours of work to put together. I sincerely congratulate them on their tireless efforts and the commitment they have displayed in so doing. I would also like to commend the work of the chief executive of the department, Sandra Lambert, and Lois Ford, Executive Director of Disability ACT. Both ladies have put their best foot forward to try and do whatever they can. Again, I think a lot of this comes down to ministerial leadership.

That having been said, and whilst acknowledging this is by no means an easy area, it certainly is one department that requires strong ministerial leadership. The lack of strong direction in this portfolio has, on many occasions over the last few years, left the department rudderless and without ministerial direction. I do have the feeling that there is a real need for an injection of energy into this portfolio at this time at a ministerial level. In all honesty, I am not sure that we have that. We have somebody who sits opposite who is energetic, but are his energies being truly directed at the front line, at the coalface, where we are seeing so many problems right now, today, despite all the rhetoric? This is made clear in some of the letters the minister is sending out in response to complaints made to his office. I talk to people who are astounded by the responses that they receive. It is obvious that the minister in many cases is really not fully aware of the particular person’s problems or deeply entrenched needs. Time will tell.

I note the talk of many positive changes in all four reports and congratulate the government and its department on some of the initiatives implemented to date. I have some reservations regarding the real, on-the-ground progress that has been made outside the government’s plans and strategies and the amount of talking that has been, and still is being, done by way of audits, reviews, scoping studies, surveys, evaluations and the like, with still no real actions against some of those things. It is still talk. As one member said, 2014 is a heck of a long way away when you are somebody struggling and suffering on the brink and on the edge.

The ACT Disability Advisory Council, which is doing a magnificent job, I have to say, has recently circulated a snapshot of some research commissioned by the ACT Disability Advisory Council in conjunction with the ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services. I seek a short extension of time. (Extension of time not granted.)

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.38), in reply: Firstly, I would like to thank Mrs Burke for congratulating the Chief Executive and the senior executives of the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services for the magnificent work they do. I have to say that congratulations are actually well warranted. In fact, as I go around the community, with all of that lack of energy that Mrs Burke seems to attribute to me, I see Ms Ford and Ms Lambert and many officers within the department. I see them at events advertised in Contact, such as

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