Page 3850 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 19 September 2017

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Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (10.37): Further to recommendation 79 of the Select Committee on Estimates 2015-2016, I am pleased to provide the Assembly with an update on the community sector reform program and how the co-contribution levy funds were and will continue to be invested.

In 2012, when the levy was established, the ACT community sector was facing a number of fundamental challenges. The equal remuneration case for the community sector was about to be determined, creating a liability for employers in the sector to pay salary increases over a nine-year period of between 23 per cent and 45 per cent, depending on the classification of the worker. At the same time, forward thinking around the establishment of the national disability insurance scheme suggested it would have a profound impact on the delivery of services to people with disabilities, as well as on the organisations that provided these services.

A new regulator for charities, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, ACNC, was also in the process of being established. The ACNC would be the regulator for the more than 100 organisations in the ACT that focus on supporting the most disadvantaged individuals, families and groups in our community. These organisations are mostly not-for-profit. At the time, this group of entities employed about 4,000 workers in the ACT and received approximately $160 million in funding from the ACT government for the delivery of services. Many also received funding from the commonwealth.

What the ACT government needed to facilitate as we headed into this period of uncertainty was a sustainable community sector; that is, a community sector that over the next 10 to 20 years and beyond would have the capacity to play its part in achieving the positive social impact in the community that both the government and the sector seek. In that context I wish to acknowledge the hard work of the ministers who have come before me in this portfolio, particularly the Chief Minister, who launched the human services blueprint, and the Deputy Chief Minister, who last year delivered a new 10-year ACT community services industry strategy.

The community sector reform co-contribution levy was all about sector sustainability. The levy was set at 0.34 per cent of the funding provided to the sector by the ACT government and has delivered significantly more in benefits to the sector than it has generated in revenue. It is important to note that the levy was not applied to smaller community sector organisations, nor was it levied from funds earmarked for direct delivery to people through specific service packages. Overall, it raised around $500,000 a year.

In supporting sustainability, the levy had three fundamental purposes. First, the levy was used to assess the amount of financial support needed by community sector organisations for the impact of the equal remuneration case. As members would be aware, in making the equal remuneration order in 2012 the Fair Work Commission recognised that the gendered nature of caring work had contributed to a gap between pay rates in the social, community and disability services industry and those for comparable work in state and local governments.

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