Page 690 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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the multicultural festival and individual community events where we actually congratulate people on what they are doing. We actually go and see them. Do you know, Mr Speaker, there has been somebody notably absent, missing in action? When we talk about whether we have energies in the sector, I have to say it is a bit like Mr Pratt in his electorate of Brindabella—missing in action. I think one ought to think seriously about how that actually does work. Mrs Burke talks frequently and loudly, but shouting at me is not going to do any good. I am not going to talk to her any more about that.

Mrs Burke congratulates the government for putting a lot of money into the sector. Then, in the same breath, she says that we are throwing money at the problem and not coming up with cultural solutions to it. She then says that the people in the department have done a magnificent job in changing things around. What have they done? They have changed the culture. Mrs Burke talks about people falling through the cracks. She is, I have to say, the queen of clichés in this place. Very entertaining speeches they are, but they are absolutely hollow, shallow and meaningless nine-tenths of the time. What struck me about Mrs Burke’s speech, in fact, was that she stood up here and basically congratulated Dr Foskey. How did she do that? She did it by promptly quoting most of the points that Dr Foskey made, because she is bereft of a single idea.

Mrs Burke quotes statistics. She says that 30 per cent of people say that those with a disability are not treated fairly; 45 per cent of ACT residents indicate people with disabilities do not have the same access. She says, “The community is doing its bit. How about the government?” Does she say how the community is doing its bit? Nope. Does she actually put up any justification for the assertions she makes? Nope. Mr Speaker, if you have a look at Mrs Burke’s speech in Hansard, you will find a whole stack of unsubstantiated assertions. That is what we see constantly in the media because the fourth estate in this town will, of course, print the babble that comes out of the shadow minister’s mouth.

I want to seriously address some of the points that Dr Foskey made. The officers of the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services are the most dedicated bunch of people I have had the good fortune to work with. Unlike many other people, I have actually gone and met them. I have met 90 per cent of the people who work in that department. I have shaken the hands of 90 per cent of the people who work in that department. I have looked into their eyes. They are dedicated to trying to do something about the plight of disabled people, not making a big song and dance about it and getting their names in the paper.

Dr Foskey is quite right when she says there is concern about the level of independent support package funding. Were we in a position to give money to every single case, we would do so. We have to do it within the resources we have. Fifty something, 58 or thereabouts—I do not want to be accused of quoting an incorrect figure, so I will just qualify that by saying it was approximately that figure—people are assisted. There are quite a number of people who are not. But what the department does now that it did not do before, and this is something which will come as an absolute surprise to Mrs Burke and I am sure she will pop up at some stage of the game and congratulate people for doing this, is contact each and every person who did not get ISP funding and say, “Come in and talk to us and we will look at any number of options that we can.” There are community groups that provide various options. There are all sorts of ways in which people’s issues can be dealt with to arrest the difficulties people are going through.

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