Page 4534 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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The NATSEM research shows that a person with a disability working 15 hours a week for the minimum wage will earn $191 a week but will take home only $80 under the new system, due to the government’s decision to claw back $111. The statistics Dr Foskey quoted, which I have included here, about the increases being seen in the job market from those moving off a sole parent payment or disability support pension show that we are in a time of great prosperity in this country. This legislation is supposedly trying to achieve welfare to work.

Mr Stefaniak: The federal government is a good government. It is good prosperity.

MS GALLAGHER: If you believe all that and accept what the Treasurer is saying—that we are in a time of great prosperity, that people are shifting from welfare to work—why then would you bring in a system that says, “We can take away all your income support if you do not do this”? Why, if you understand all that, would you then introduce a system like this which is going to have significantly disadvantage many families? Is that motivated by what you are trying to deliver, which is supposedly already being delivered, or is it being motivated by something more sinister?

Referring to the issue of foster carers, I wrote to the federal minister on 11 July this year when this legislation was first introduced, drawing his attention to the problems around how this would impact on foster carers, stating my concern, as Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, and acknowledging that we have a shortage of foster carers in the ACT. I received a letter in reply saying that foster carers would have to apply individually for exemptions and that they would be assessed upon that. I wrote back and said I thought that was unfair. Then we had the changes, saying that exemptions would be provided to registered foster carers. The government claims to have exempted foster carers from the legislation; however, the legislation shows that exemptions will only be made in accordance with as yet unwritten guidelines, which will be the prerogative of the departmental secretary. If you look at the fine detail, you will see that there is no blanket exemption for foster carers, who provide a valuable service to our community.

Mrs Burke: Of course there is—under fair pay and conditions standards. What about that?

MS GALLAGHER: The guidelines are yet to be determined. That is what provides the guidelines.

Mrs Burke: That is the crux, isn’t it—yet to be determined?

MS GALLAGHER: Yet to be determined. I am sure that has comforted you, Mrs Burke, but it has not comforted me. It is a comfort to you that the guidelines have not yet been determined. It is like the prohibited content in WorkChoices. You can get a fine for prohibited content, but we will not tell you what prohibited content is. And we will exempt foster carers under the guidelines, but we will not tell you what the guidelines are until the legislation passes. For the opposition to believe that this is fair legislation is outrageous.

Mrs Burke: Wrong.

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