Page 3749 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 28 October 2015

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MR COE: Minister, have any roads been delayed because of your grandstanding or lobbying efforts?

MR RATTENBURY: I have been perfectly clear in making the point that the reason we are trying to improve public transport in this town is to avoid the necessity for road duplications, and in some cases it is not even possible. If we look at Northbourne Avenue as an example, we simply cannot just build more lanes on Northbourne Avenue. It is not going to happen. That is why we need to have transport alternatives. That is the argument I am seeking to make. That is the argument on which members of the Liberal Party are seeking to stick their heads in the sand and ignore.


MS FITZHARRIS: My question is to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs. Minister, could you update the Assembly on progress in the settlement of additional Syrian and Iraqi refugees into Australia and the ACT? How many people do you anticipate being settled in Canberra?

MS BERRY: I thank Ms Fitzharris for her interest in this issue. As members know, the ACT government has given strong support to the federal decision to accept an additional 12,000 humanitarian entrants from Syria and Iraq. The Assembly has also shown unanimous support, which I believe is a good reflection of the Canberra community’s response of compassion and support. The ACT government continues to work with federal counterparts with the aim of ensuring a smooth and efficient settlement process done in cooperation with other jurisdictions and with our respective communities.

I also welcome the Queensland government’s announcement yesterday that it too will offer a compassionate and thought-out response for some 5,300 refugees. I have exchanged letters with federal ministers reiterating the ACT’s offer to play our part and to seek the necessary information and assurances from them, which will help our work locally. I can inform members that the processing of people is underway and that Australia is likely to see a small number of humanitarian entrants arrive before Christmas.

Early next year we expect the rate of people arriving will increase and I am very confident that our local services and our community are ready to welcome those who will come to Canberra. I have held meetings with our local service providers and peak bodies and been guided by their advice. They have stated that we are ready and able to accept an additional 250 humanitarian entrants as an indicative number. This is over and above the usual allocation of about 150 people under the federal government’s program for 2015-16.

These discussions have focused on some of the critical factors in successful settlements around people being able to find affordable housing, paid employment and, for many, learning English. In relation to employment, I have been heartened by the decisions of the Canberra Business Chamber, whose members have shown a strong willingness to employ and train new arrivals.

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