Page 2795 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 17 August 2005

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have lived in and devoted more than 50 years of their life to our community—indeed, over 1,000 were nominated for a Canberra gold award as an acknowledgment of their great contribution to our city. That of course reflects our commitment and determination that Canberra be a city for all ages and that we acknowledge our older people.

I would also like to highlight the important work of the community inclusion board, under the leadership Hugh McKay, which has overseen the allocation of the government’s community inclusion fund. The fund is supporting 15 community organisations already, working in partnership with government agencies to improve the social and economic circumstances of the most vulnerable members of the ACT. The board has established a pilot household debt project, very innovative once again, looking to break the debilitating cycle of consumer debt. Funding for energy, water and sewerage concessions have been extended to individuals and families on low incomes who are adversely affected by utility prices. That is just a glimpse of some of the issues that we have dealt with through the Canberra plan and that reflect our vision. I thank the member for bringing this to the attention of the Assembly today.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.03): I would like to thank Mr Gentleman for providing an opportunity for the Assembly to assess the Canberra plan. Of course the assessment of the Canberra plan against its goals should be a constant process, and there is absolutely no doubt that the Canberra plan is a good initiative, one that the Greens have been calling for since we first entered the Assembly. It is inevitable, of course, that the document prepared by the government has its deficiencies, but we acknowledge that it is a start.

In responding to Mr Gentleman’s motion today, I would like to draw on two key areas in which the ACT government needs to do a lot of work if it is going to meet the objectives of the Canberra plan. The first area for improvement is the government’s willingness to involve the community in debates about planning and community projects, and the second is sustainability measures.

First of all, in the area of community involvement, the OECD study related to the Canberra plan states that the real source of the problems faced by cities at the beginning of the 21st century is that strategies for solving problems have broken down. It states, “There is not so much a shortage of investment as there is a shortage of imagination and an excess of caution.” One wonders where the shortage of imagination lies and where the excess of caution lies. Perhaps that will become clearer as I speak. I have got another take on this 21st century problem. I actually do not think there is a shortage of imagination, not in the community at least. But there is an increase in the division between community and government. So perhaps there is no shortage of imagination in the community, but too much caution in relation to taking it on from the government.

Governments at all levels in Australia are building the dividers between themselves and the community higher and, as such, government has less access to what the community is thinking and saying. The government has made a commitment through the Canberra plan to ensure stronger relationships with the community via the community engagement strategy. But, unfortunately for the community, in the last three months the government has failed to implement the principles of community engagement on a number of issues. Sometimes I wonder if the government is in fact afraid of the community and, to be safe, it prefers to do its consultation after it has made its decisions.

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