Page 534 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 18 February 2015

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In the health space we are seeing changes to Medicare locals, which will be replaced by primary health networks from 1 July 2015. Funding will have to be found within existing resources. It is expected to be reduced, and further details on their role and boundaries are not known. I am a strong supporter of Medicare locals and their work in coordinating a range of local health providers to deal with primary healthcare needs. On top of that, we have the prospect of some sort of co-payment. I am not quite sure where that is up to federally, but, again, that is an extra impact for those who are most needy in our community.

These are just some of the service providers in the community sector that Ms Porter refers to in her motion that are under in the pressure in the ACT as a direct result of pressure from the federal government. These are important organisations that deliver services to the most needy in our community. The cuts or funding uncertainty as a result of federal government action put them in a position that is simply impossible. What do they do with their staff? How do they prepare and plan to continue to provide the necessary services to their clients?

The community sector does great work in our community, particularly in supporting disadvantaged and vulnerable Canberrans. We are seeing the federal budget cut both services and funding directly to the most vulnerable individuals and also cut services and funding to community organisations. That has a double effect that is creating a climate of uncertainty, and it is certainly limiting the long-term viability of these organisations.

I welcome Ms Porter putting a spotlight on these issues today. We are in a situation that is incredibly difficult for these organisations and the important work they do. I am pleased to support Ms Porter’s motion today.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (5.53), in reply: I thank members for their support of the motion and of the community sector. Ms Berry is correct when she says we need to measure our community and our government by the way we work with those most vulnerable. To be an effective government we need to work in cooperation with the community sector and with the community itself, as we cannot do it by ourselves. Ms Berry pointed out clear examples of how this government does this.

Ms Lawder seems to believe that because of the so-called budget black hole the federal Liberal government claimed they found when they came into office it is okay to fix the debt by punishing those who can fight back the least—the most vulnerable, the unemployed, the students, the sick. Not satisfied with that, Ms Lawder seems to think it is okay to take funds away from community sector organisations—literally taking the rug from under their feet before Christmas—because the Liberal federal government cannot bring itself to tackle the big end of town. Of course, that did not stop the Liberal federal government adding to the debt by its own decisions after coming into office and then having the gall to complain that the debt was growing.

If Ms Lawder thinks picking on the vulnerable to fix one’s problems is okay, I am not sure what her letter to Minister Morrison could have said. As Ms Berry said, writing letters is not enough. I also wrote about these cruel cuts, but it is not enough just to sit

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