Page 4523 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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every opportunity to speak out. As I said, the so-called reforms are designed to target the least advantaged in our society and, therefore, those who have the least opportunity to express their anger or their disappointment. This legislation targets people with disabilities, people with very real impediments to work, sole parents, and, until the recent miraculous backdown, foster children and their carers.

I initiated this discussion here today not to point out to those opposite what a draconian bunch their federal colleagues are, which of course they are. Rather, I moved this motion initially because I was afraid of the very real effects this legislation will have on our community in the ACT, our wonderful foster parents and the children that they care for, single parents and their children, people with disabilities and their families, people living here in the ACT. Whilst we now know that some affected groups—namely, foster children and their carers, families with four children or more, and carers of children with disabilities—will be spared this punishment, but to even contemplate that these families were under threat in the first place is astounding and, of course, very disturbing.

This legislation is still draconian in its content and it fails to take into account the actual welfare of Australians. Despite the backdowns, we can expect many more community groups and individuals to experience disadvantage due to the effects of this heartless withdrawal of government support. In fact, only this morning I picked up my Canberra Times and read the following report:

Chief Executive of Anglicare Canberra Ian Marshall said changes to eligibility requirements for welfare to work could lead to a greater community dependence on charities in the future.

“A concern that I have is that people who are in need will become more disadvantaged,” he said at Anglicare’s Christmas Appeal Launch yesterday.

Mr Marshall said certain changes could reduce people’s access to the skills and employment necessary to get them off welfare.

“Sometimes legislation and policy has unintended consequences, so we will watch carefully to see if there is a growing demand for our services.”

I think Mr Marshall has a very real reason for concern. I know that all of us in this place take our responsibilities to our constituents very seriously. It is because of this that I know we will all remain vigilant and we will all lobby our federal colleagues to further reform the welfare-to-work legislation so that it more accurately reflects the true Australian values that we all ascribe to—values of a caring, compassionate society which recognises the significant contribution already made to the community by all of those who now find themselves the target of the federal government’s draconian legislation. It is as though these people do not make any contribution already to our society, yet we all know, of course, that they do. I encourage all those in the house to support this motion.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (3.45): At the territory level I hope we are all under no illusion that any member of the Canberra community is surely better off in some form of employment than remaining on welfare. I propose to present a different view perhaps to some of the—dare I say—hand-wringing commentary we have heard in this place about the proposed welfare reforms. And let us not forget that they are only proposed; there is much to work through and it is being worked through at a federal level. There is

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