Page 12 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 15 February 2011

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Public Sector Management Amendment Bill 2010

Debate resumed from 9 December 2010, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.31): The opposition will be supporting this bill. When tabling the bill, the Chief Minister stated that it was his intention to provide greater opportunity in the ACT public service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Canberrans with a disability.

The Chief Minister quoted a statistic that, while people with a disability make up 16 per cent of our community, they only occupy 1.6 per cent of positions in the ACT public service. The actual numbers go some way to revealing the extent of this. As at 30 June 2009, there were only 175 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and 30 people with a disability in the ACT public service—this from a workforce over 20,000 strong.

That said, while the public service has grown by just over six per cent, the presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with a disability grew by 18 and nearly 10 per cent respectively, so there has been a considerable increase.

The amendment allows the chief executives to have dedicated positions within the department or agency for officers that are Indigenous or officers with a disability. I share the hopes of the Chief Minister that this will provide for an even greater increase in the participation rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with a disability within the ACT public service. I note that the Chief Minister made it clear to the public service heads that these positions are to be filled and supported and able to survive whatever internal changes may occur in the future.

I read with interest the views of the scrutiny of bills committee on the issue of privacy within the context of a person who identifies themselves as an Indigenous Australian. The committee makes a reasonable point regarding the potential of, in this instance, the department breaching the privacy of the claimant. In responding to this, the Chief Minister said that it was not intended that the claimant would have to provide evidence to substantiate their claim.

The Chief Minister also listed other changes to the act that were procedural and reflected the need to remain consistent with both other territory legislation and that of the commonwealth.

The amendment also deals with the issue of moving particular entitlements out of the legislative process and into workplace agreements. I note that the maternity provisions for staff covered by occupational specific agreements will not change until all of these agreements have caught up. I also note that a safety net will be in operation.

The bill also allows for increased flexibility for the chief executives with the clarification of their ability to extend and terminate probation when an officer fails to undertake a medical assessment. Further, the bill will increase flexibility for the redeployment of officers who are medically unfit to perform in their positions and their roles.

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