Page 2138 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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a government policy that has had longstanding application, both here and in the commonwealth, and in other states. It is a policy that says that if we are going to spend public funds, not government funds—funds provided by Australian taxpayers—Australian taxpayers should get some practical benefit out of it. At the moment the decisions are that that practical benefit should be for projects such as running Cool Communities, providing advice and audits to organisations, collecting seeds—doing the on-the-ground grunt work.

I commend the commonwealth government for ensuring that the money that goes to voluntary environment and heritage organisations provides a return to the community, rather than an opportunity for advocacy and rabblerousing. I think it is a most important distinction that the sorts of funding that the institutions receive is not, as I have said, a God-given right that must continue forever. Priorities change and the current priorities are for on-the-ground works. I therefore commend the federal government for their actions and will not be supporting the thrust of Dr Foskey’s motion.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (11.38): The ACT government recognises the invaluable contribution of the non-government sector to public policy development in both its words and deeds. As set out in the Canberra social plan we are building a stronger, more cohesive relationship between the ACT government and the Canberra community, and with the organisations that represent that community. The vision of the Canberra plan, or the social plan, is of a Canberra where people reach their potential, make a contribution and share the benefits of our community. Such a vision cannot be fulfilled by a government alone, and we have long recognised that we must work with the community if we are to ensure that all Canberrans share our city’s good fortune over the coming decade and beyond.

This government is committed to the individuals and organisations that they stand up for. They support and advocate, on behalf of the vulnerable and the needy, the individuals and organisations that contribute every day to improving the quality of life for all Canberrans. Without their efforts the work of government would be much more difficult and our limited resources stretched even more thinly.

A clear example of the ACT government’s recognition of the invaluable contribution of the community sector to public policy development is the joint community-government reference group. This group comprises representatives from a number of peak community organisations, including the conservation council, ACTCOSS, ACT Shelter, ACROD, and the executive director from the ACT government agencies. Its role is to provide advice to the ACT government on the “building a stronger community flagship” part of the Canberra social plan, viability issues in relation to the community sector and general social policy issues.

Just last week Minister Hargreaves launched the ACT government’s community engagement initiative. I was greatly heartened by the large numbers who attended the event, despite the inclement weather. The community engagement initiative represents a fundamental shift in the way government interacts with the people it serves. I believe it is worth noting the degree to which government worked collaboratively with the community sector in the development of this initiative. Through this initiative the Stanhope government is looking to encourage Canberrans to fully engage in the issues that affect them. In this way we benefit from a broad range of skills, experience and

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