Page 3471 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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I am not rushing in and rebuilding 13 houses in the light of the full range of issues that need to be taken account of, and nor would you if you were in government.

ACT Health—salary packaging

MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Minister for Health. I refer to your statement on 30 June in which you informed the Legislative Assembly that the government would go to the Australian Tax Office to see if they would give a ruling in relation to the fringe benefits taxation implications and the legitimacy of the salary packing arrangements applying in ACT Health. Would you advise the outcome of your approach to the ATO?

MR CORBELL: I will take the question on notice.

MR MULCAHY: Are you able to indicate if you have had to make any subsequent changes to salary packing arrangements based on this or any other advice?

MR CORBELL: I will take the question on notice.

Magistrates Court—liaison staff

MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the Attorney-General and minister for corrective services. Several magistrates, including the Chief Magistrate, have spoken out against the decision to move corrective services court liaison staff out of the Magistrates Court, saying that it has delayed hearings, added to legal aid costs and could lead to people being held in custody for additional periods.

Minister, why was this decision taken? Have any additional written reports been ordered by magistrates since the move of the court liaison staff from the Magistrates Court? Have there been any additional delays to court procedures caused by this decision?

MR STANHOPE: I thank the shadow attorney for the question. Certainly I am aware of reports of expressions of concern in relation to changed arrangements for corrective services liaison officers within the court.

It is very simple. The ACT government did not impose on the courts, as it did on almost every other department and agency in the ACT, a five per cent efficiency dividend through the last budget. A number of agencies were excluded from the five per cent efficiency dividend. To the extent that we excluded some agencies, such as the court, other agencies of course picked up a disproportionate burden in relation to the government’s fiscal needs in the cut that they were asked to bear. Corrective services was one such organisation. Corrective services as an organisation did not benefit from my largesse to exclude it from the five per cent efficiency dividend.

In order to meet its efficiency dividend, ACT Corrective Services had to take some hard decisions. One of the hard decisions was to remove from the courts the liaison officer position. I am aware of comments that the Chief Magistrate and others have made in relation to this. Their comments have not, of course, been accompanied by an offer to fund the positions for corrective services. I think we need to bear that in mind.

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