Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 September 2005) . . Page.. 3363 ..
MS PORTER: Minister, what did the ACT government see as the best approach to assisting people with disabilities into the workforce? How does the ACT government’s approach differ from other approaches?
Mrs Dunne: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: is the first part of that question asking for an opinion? I know it is not asking for an opinion of an individual member, but it was asking for an opinion.
MR SPEAKER: I will listen to the question again. Ms Porter, would you like to ask it again? If it is asking for an opinion, it is disorderly.
MS PORTER: What does the ACT government see as the best approach to assisting people with disabilities into the workforce? How does the ACT government’s approach differ from other approaches?
MR HARGREAVES: I thank Ms Porter for the supplementary. The ACT government believes that people with a disability have the right to participate fully in our workforce, and we believe that the barriers they experience should be broken down as much as possible.
As part of our own commitment to people with a disability, the ACT government announced earlier this year that up to half of this year’s graduate intake for the ACT public service would be people with disabilities. This commitment to young talented people with disabilities is part of a public service-wide employment framework for people with a disability.
The roundtable last week saw a gathering of employers, businesses and people within the disability community to open the lines of communication and discuss how to meet some of the challenges that are preventing people with a disability obtaining employment. We believe that this is a good way forward.
What the ACT government does not believe is that people with a disability should be forced into work on the threat of losing their pension. From July next year, the federal government is planning to move people with disabilities and who can work from the disability support pension onto the newstart allowance. Any initiative to increase the participation of people with disabilities in the workforce is to be welcomed. But we have some significant concerns about the impact these changes will have on people with a disability in the ACT. A recently released independent study by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has shown that adults with a disability could be up to $120 a week worse off under the federal government’s welfare to work reforms. That is a worrying figure. I am very concerned that these changes could see a new group of people being pushed into the poverty cycle.
I also have concerns about the new compliance framework that imposes penalties for people who leave a job voluntarily. This may have a detrimental effect on people with disabilities who are more likely to be subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace or, for example, when there is insufficient support in the workplace. It is, therefore, timely that we have convened the BLITS roundtable with businesses and employers to talk about some of these issues.