Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 August 2016) . . Page.. 2525 ..
MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (5.44): I am pleased to talk today in the budget debate about the Community Services Directorate. The community services sector is a bigger sector of the ACT than construction or tourism and is an essential partner to the government in delivering our obligations to make a stronger society. In fact, it delivers a lot of services on behalf of the government and in a more cost-effective way than the government will be able to achieve on their own. The sector is an enabler of human capital and is a very important part of our community.
Firstly, I would like to talk a little about the 0.34 per cent community sector reform levy. Members may recall I asked a number of questions in estimates hearings last year about this when a number of community organisations raised concerns about the government imposing the 0.34 per cent community sector reform levy once again, and it has continued into this current year.
This year the estimates committee heard evidence about the importance of investment and support for the community sector. But on the levy itself I asked whether in real terms it is a cut for community sector organisations when compared to the consumer price index. I was assured that the index is applied to their base 2015-16 amounts. Whatever their actual base is for that year it then gets increased by 1.8 per cent indexation. I was assured it is actually an increase. That is on page 625 of the Hansard.
But if you look at it, Madam Speaker, you will see that the indexation is 1.8 per cent, with the 0.34 per cent deducted for the community reform levy, therefore giving effective indexation of 1.46 per cent. The ACTCOSS budget snapshot stated their concerns that indexation of community sector funding is not matching the cost increases that they face.
In fact I have heard from one organisation that it is experiencing a cut in real terms. This organisation told me it received the same amount of funding this financial year as it received last financial year, with no indexation applied, which is of course a cut in real terms. Is that how the government shows its support for the community sector and the people that it supports?
Community organisations, I am sure it goes without saying to everyone in this place, do fantastic work in our city. The government needs to give them support by listening and taking their feedback into account when making decisions about their funding allocations.
In fact, the estimates committee made a recommendation, recommendation 9:
… that the ACT government investigate ways to better engage with community organisations on issues relating to applying for ACT Government grants and funding.
In its response the government agreed in principle to this recommendation.