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Coalition inaction threatens cuts to NSW migrant services.



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14 February 2002 COALITION INACTION THREATENS CUTS TO NSW MIGRANT SERVICES

Commonwealth funded migrant services in NSW face cuts to current service levels as a result of the Coalition’s refusal to provide additional funding in line with a new award for community welfare workers.

Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Laurie Ferguson MP, says that as a result almost 70 separate NSW migrant service projects funded under the Migrant Resource Centre program and the Community Settlement Services Scheme (CSSS) will suffer.

‘Last December the Industrial Relations Commission determined new pay and conditions for community welfare workers employed under the state Social and Community Services (SACS) Award,’ Mr Ferguson said.

‘The first elements of the new award structure are now in place but Commonwealth-funded migrant services have received no additional funding to meet their changed award obligations.

‘Indeed the peak non-government welfare body in NSW, the NSW Council of Social Service, has received a letter from Minister Ruddock stating that ‘there is no opportunity to increase funding for NSW grants to meet the cost of the increase in the award. My Department is …willing to negotiate adjustments to current CSSS work programs in order to manage the impact of the award rise’.

‘The Minister’s comment about adjustments to work programs is clearly code for saying that funded organisations will be required to cut operating hours, reduce caseloads or downgrade staffing levels. This is a totally unacceptable response.

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‘Migrant service agencies and their clients should not suffer because the Howard Government has mismanaged the Federal Budget and wasted taxpayers funds on massive political advertising and excessive consultancies.

‘In Question Time yesterday Minister Hardgrave tried to make the laughable suggestion that Labor was not committed to anti-racism initiatives and settlement programs.

‘If he is so committed to settlement services he should follow the lead of the State Labor Government by providing additional funding to funded services in NSW in line with the new award requirements,’ Mr Ferguson said.

For further information:

Laurie Ferguson MP 02 6277 4920 Warren Gardiner 0409 910 004