Page 2706 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013

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MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (11.38): I rise today to support the amendment, and to tell the story of a woman I met during Refugee Week this year who lives in Belconnen. She is a single parent. She was in a detention centre for 12 months and has been in Canberra now for 2½ years, trying to survive on 80 per cent of Newstart—that is, $200 a week.

Both of her children attend their local public schools. It is wonderful for them to have an opportunity to learn while they are here and starting a new life in this country. This mother is struggling to survive on what many of us could not possibly imagine anybody could survive on. It puts enormous pressure on our charities and churches. It puts enormous pressure on people in our neighbourhoods. That is why I am rising to support this amendment—so that people like her have a good start.

I know that it is not only the ACT government; those opposite are also supporting people like this. I have seen them at the functions. We have all been in the same places together. It is probably a bit of a cheap shot by Mr Rattenbury to try and paint everybody with the same brush and to try to make it easy to say, “It’s only the Green party that are pure on this,” because that is not the case. Mr Rattenbury would know that the ACT government has a good record on lending its support to people who have come to this country and to this town.

I just wanted to tell that story because I think we have all met people and have made friendships with people like this woman that I met. We should tell their stories to our federal government and encourage them to reconsider this decision so that people who are coming to Canberra to start new lives get the same opportunities as everybody else in this town.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (11.40): I rise also to support Minister Corbell’s amendment. I want to address some of the issues that Mr Corbell raised in a more defining sense. These refugees that come to the ACT to settle, as mentioned, can only acquire 80 percent of Newstart. Any dollar that they earn in any employment is taken directly out of that allowance. So they might have an opportunity of earning perhaps an extra $100 a week in some short-term employment; that is immediately taken out of that allowance. It makes it very difficult for them to continue to live in the ACT in the current environment.

The other issues for them are transport, of course—there is a cost involved with that—and accommodation. We all know what accommodation is like in the ACT, especially that low rent style accommodation.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate a number of people who have been supporting refugees and the employment of refugees in the ACT. There is a particular group that has been involved in the last number of years. The key drivers have been Libby Lloyd and Arja Keski-Nummi, who have been supporting these groups. They have gathered a momentum around them and have incorporated other people in assisting refugees to gain employment in the ACT. One of the key helpers has been Dean Hall and the CFMEU. They have provided white card training for groups of refugees and tried to place them in jobs across the territory that are relevant to their skills.

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