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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 239

Senator DEVLIN —My question is addressed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. News reports from Tasmania indicate that the Department of Veterans' Affairs is having considerable difficulty in negotiating reasonable conditions relating to the transfer of staff from the formerly Commonwealth funded community employment home help program for veterans in Tasmania to the State's home help scheme. What is the present situation with the transfer? Will the 10 women concerned be assured of further employment?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true that there are some difficulties associated with the transfer of the initiative begun by the Government in respect of the innovative home help scheme which was begun under the community employment program and administered by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis. That scheme came to an end because it had a limited duration. However, because of the success of the scheme, it was made a Budget item. This means that what began as an experiment is now part of the ongoing programs of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Negotiations have been conducted with all the States with a view to the States taking over the operation of the scheme and the Department of Veterans' Affairs buying the services from the State organisations. A measure of agreement has been reached in all States with the exception of Tasmania, where numerous conferences have been held since we began the process of having the matters dealt with in a decentralised way within the State organisations. One meeting was held in November and another one in January. A problem that emerged was that the State could not provide the same level of service. Tasmania refused to give a guarantee in respect of the future employment of these women who had been specially selected and are currently employed under the CEP funding.

The Commonwealth is happy to continue funding to the service as it has proved to be very beneficial to veterans. The service is subject to cost-benefit analysis and provides employment as well as assisting veterans to stay in their homes. Of course, the Commonwealth is not interested in establishing a separate organisation to that which is already being provided by the States for non-veterans. However, the appropriate Tasmanian Minister has said that legislative constraints would bar any direct transfer of women currently employed by the Commonwealth to the State Public Service. One of the matters of principle upon which the Commonwealth is insisting in its discussions with the States is that the women be transferred from Commonwealth to State employment so that what was begun as an experiment will result in permanent employment for women who have carried out their tasks in every circumstance very admirably.

We are insisting in the negotiations with the Tasmanian Government that those principles, which have been accepted in all other States, should apply and that, therefore, the Tasmanian government should take legislative action to ensure that that process is continued in Tasmania as, indeed, it is in all the other States. We recognise that a Tasmanian Act makes it difficult for such persons to be transferred. Nevertheless, there are arrangements under which personnel employed by States have been transferred to the Commonwealth. That principle should be applied in this case. We believe that the Tasmanian Government has a responsibility to find a solution to the problem and to provide continuing employment for those who were involved in the initial scheme.