Page 4644 - Week 14 - Thursday, 24 November 2005

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They do it because something in them drives them to do it. I believe that we will be forever in their debt.

The ACT Emergency Services Authority, through the RFS and the SES, has a total of 1,332 volunteers, and the government values their commitment and their dedication. ACT Policing also utilises the service of volunteers. There are currently 35 participants who volunteer their services. They range from 23 to 78 years of age and they give in excess of 30,000 hours per year, working at a rate of 16 hours a week, to ACT Policing. They should be commended for their involvement.

The government recognises the vitally important role played by volunteers in community sector organisations, such that we have provided funding to Volunteering ACT to provide extensive training to the community sector on what it needs to know in relation to the recruitment of volunteers. That includes insurance coverage, occupational health and safety, privacy consideration and police checks. It reflects our recognition that community organisations operate in a more complex regulatory working environment than ever before in relation to the recruitment of volunteers.

We also support volunteers through the provision of permits to community organisations for use by volunteers for, say, free parking to reduce one significant overhead involved in being a volunteer. The ACT government’s vision for volunteering in the future is one in which all people in the community are supported in their efforts to participate in the life of Canberra as volunteers, and that includes overcoming the particular barriers facing participation by people with disabilities, people from diverse cultural backgrounds who do not speak English, people on low incomes, and young people.

The attitude displayed by the ACT government, ably led by Volunteering ACT or in partnership with Volunteering ACT, contrasts starkly with the attitude displayed by the federal government. At a recent meeting of emergency services ministers I raised the issue of out-of-pocket expenses for people who are involved in front-line volunteering, people who willingly go and put themselves between their community and an impending danger such as a bushfire. I sought to have their out-of-pocket expenses recognised by way of a tax rebate, if they pay tax.

All ministers from the states agreed that something needed to be done and that the best way on a national scale would be to do it through that system. That was rejected out of hand by Minister Ruddock because he was too scared to take that proposal to that most generous of men, Treasurer Costello. However, I have received much support from the Western Australian minister, the Queensland minister and the South Australian minister, and we will pursue these federal bandits relentlessly. I encourage people to walk within their community and encourage as much volunteering as they can.

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: Before I call Mr Pratt, I would like to make an explanation for giving the call to Mr Hargreaves. Standing order 44 states, “When two or more Members rise to speak the Speaker shall call on the member who rose first.” Perhaps I took that literally. I did see Mr Hargreaves rise first and gave him the call. But the Clerk has pointed out to me that House of Representatives Practice does state that, although the allocation of the call is a matter for the direction of the chair, it is usual as a principle to call members from each side of the house, government and non-government, alternately. The statement prior to that, of course, reflects our standing

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