Page 2581 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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estimates process and some of what came out of it. Obviously, there was discussion about the $10 million broken promise for housing, but we will get onto that later under another line of expenditure.

One of the things that came out was that members of the community sector appeared to be critical of some government plans for spending. There was criticism of the $1.6 million for an intensive care and treatment facility. ADACAS, the ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service, said about people with a disability:

… we know, virtually without exception, this group is not going to benefit significantly from such a facility. Why spend all this money?

So there was concern, certainly from ADACAS, that perhaps it could have been spent in different areas. There was criticism by the MHCC, which stated that it was “greatly disappointed with the lack of sufficient funding to support the ACT mental health strategy and action plan”. I am sure members on both sides would acknowledge the crucial importance of mental health funding. Obviously, it is tricky for government to get the right amount there, but one of the community groups certainly was telling us that in its opinion there was not enough. Obviously, there are priorities. I think that mental health is one of the really important areas of government spending.

Concerns were raised in relation to some of the administration costs of the taxi subsidy. The administration of a number of areas of DHCS was also questioned in the estimates process; in particular, as I said, the taxi voucher system, which costs in the order of $200,000 in administration for a system worth $750,000 in subsidies, that is, an administration cost of about 27c for every dollar that is paid in subsidy. That does seem particularly high. I think that is an area in which the government does need to look for some efficiency gains, perhaps by the use of cards or some other system that would bring down those fairly high costs. I think it would be acknowledged generally that the administration costs are pretty high. I think that that is an area in which the government should look at reining in some of its spending and finding some efficiencies so that more money can go to subsidising disabled users of taxis rather than administration.

I do have to raise the issue of Mr Hargreaves’s performance in this area, in particular some of his offensive comments. Mr Hargreaves made reference to people with disabilities in the first 10 minutes of his estimates committee appearance. He continued to be offensive and inappropriate. In his opening statement he said:

In regimes prior to the Stanhope government, people were stuck in a cupboard. We are not going to do that.

I think that members generally, not just opposition members of the committee, found some of Mr Hargreaves’s performance during this hearing and some of the others inappropriate and certainly unhelpful for the committee in trying to do its job. I know that the chair found it difficult at times to control Mr Hargreaves, and that was disappointing. I will have a little more to say on that in a second.

I welcome the increases in individual support packages. I was pleased to see more money added for this initiative. Much was made earlier in the year of individual support packages. There was heavy criticism in the Canberra Times, with stories of young

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