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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9757

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (13:02): Community service organisations are a vital part of our social fabric. They help countless Australians and indeed citizens around the world not only in times of headline-grabbing disasters but also with the everyday needs of the vulnerable in our communities.

Whilst the member for Banks's motion today specifically recognises his local organisations, I am grateful for the opportunity he has provided for all of us to acknowledge the work of community services in all of our electorates. My electorate of Ryan is home to countless organisations which are always there to lend a helping hand. In particular, I take the opportunity to acknowledge Father Bill of the Holy Family Parish in Indooroopilly and Reverend Costa at the Moggill Uniting Church, who continue to provide support to those affected by the January floods and to let them know they are not forgotten, even though the floodwaters have receded. Recently, with my colleague the member for Hasluck, I met with Aunty Jean Phillips and Reverend Heather den Houten, who are in the process of setting up a safe space for Indigenous youths to drop in for a hot meal at night. These are just two examples of hardworking altruists who are determined to make a difference in our community.

The first two parts of this motion are without doubt commendable. I had originally intended to use this time to speak further about the benefits that community service organisations provide. But I am troubled by a recent newspaper article which reported that, as a result of new federal regulations, many not-for-profit community service providers are facing the potential of becoming insolvent within weeks. Given we are here today to acknowledge the great work of community service organisations and the government's support, I feel it is timely to question both the federal government and the Queensland state Labor government about why this has happened. The report states that new federal regulations were put in place on 4 August and have left some not-for-profit community service organisations with bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay after the state Labor government requested that pay increases be retained after Queensland transitioned to the federal industrial relations system. Salaries have risen between 18 and 37 per cent, leaving not-for-profit groups with 18 months worth of back pay. The Queensland Council of Social Services warned that some groups will have no choice but to fold, let staff go or reduce services, potentially affecting tens of thousands of people and indeed the tens of thousands of people who rely on these services.

Many groups will be affected by this change. This sector employs 50 per cent more people than the mining industry and it is estimated that 45,000 employees will be affected in Queensland and 280,000 nationally. In Queensland alone it is estimated that more than 2,000 employees will be laid off and potentially more than 12,000 nationally. This summer in Queensland, with 90 per cent of local government areas affected by natural disasters, it was the Red Cross which was on the ground delivering services to the community. Imagine the cost, the time and the effort Red Cross Queensland alone saved government, both state and federal, during recent disasters. And yet the Red Cross is just one of hundreds of community service organisations these new regulations have hit.

However, when both the Queensland Council of Social Service and Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, wrote to the Prime Minister seeking a lifeline to ensure that jobs and services would not be compromised, this report states that the federal government simply said that the new regulation was at the request of the state. More buck passing! It seems that both levels of Labor government have some explaining to do and, more importantly, they need to ensure the future viability of these essential community service organisations.

I call on the government to act now, to slow down the proposed timetable and to provide a comprehensive industry adjustment package. If the member for Banks is genuine in moving this motion today, he will now call on his caucus to remedy the untenable situation in which his party's policy has left these organisations.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 13:07 to 16:00