Page 2592 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 2 July 2008

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In relation to the detail of the question, which is how many and who did not get a job and why did they not get a job, I will take that on notice. It will probably take some time to reply to that because it will mean going back and looking at each individual interview.

The issue here is that when the government could not fill positions, when we were unable to fill positions, we did the right thing and coordinated an overseas recruitment program to go and get the staff that we need to fill these positions. We did not just sit down and say, “No-one wants to work for us here. There is a shortage of care and protection workers. New South Wales is recruiting, Queensland is recruiting and Victoria is recruiting.” In fact, Victoria were overseas just before we were doing exactly the same thing.

Instead of just saying, “That’s it; we are going to struggle through with 20 vacant positions,” we have actually taken the initiative and sent a team overseas, including UK recruits that came out a few years ago and are still here. We had 110 applicants and 90 interviews. They are all extremely skilled professionals and my understanding is that hopefully we will be able to make offers of employment to around 50 of them. With that, we will be able to fill the vacancies we have got in care and protection that we have been unable to fill locally or nationally through local or national recruitments.

I will get back to you, Mr Smyth, as to the detail of how many, who, why and when. As I said, it will take some time, I think, because it will mean going back through each individual file of interview. I totally reject the allegation being run by the opposition that our merit-based recruitment processes have refused to employ suitably qualified and available staff for a reason unknown to me.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question from Mr Smyth.

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, given that I am told that New South Wales has recently recruited something like 600 workers, is it therefore that the conditions you are offering here are less than New South Wales or does your government have a policy of preferring overseas social workers to Australian and Canberra social workers?

MS GALLAGHER: I would argue that the fact that New South Wales are out recruiting 600 may actually have something to do with the reason why we are struggling. Each jurisdiction is out there aggressively seeking people to fill these positions. New South Wales have a high vacancy rate at times, as does every child protection agency. From my understanding, our conditions of employment are as good as anywhere else in the country. Our staff turnover rate in care and protection is one of the best in the country. We retain staff here.

That can be seen by looking at the previous UK recruits. We have lost, I think, five out of 32 that were recruited. A couple have gone home and a couple have gone interstate. But the rest are all here. They have bought houses and they are staying here with their families. That does not exactly send me a message that people do not want to come and work for disability, housing and community services in their care and protection area.

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