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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 21917

Mr WINDSOR (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister and it relates to the government's reforms to disability employment assistance. Given that the stress and fear of job losses being experienced by people with disabilities who are working in sheltered workshops such as the Glen Innes Regional Sheltered Workshop has not been alleviated by the safety net consultative process, will the Prime Minister guarantee that those disabled people who want to continue to work or who want to enter work will not be shunted off into diversionary programs that will not provide the self-esteem of employment and that are not available in many country towns? Given that the time frames within the consultative process relating to the delivery of key viability information are proving impossible to meet, will the Prime Minister extend the current deadline for implementation beyond December 2004 to allow meaningful consultation with regional service providers?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The government very strongly support sheltered workshops. We have committed additional resources to this area, and I can inform the honourable member for New England that I will talk to the Minister for Family and Community Services and, if there is an extension needed to achieve the goals the honourable member speaks of, I will have a look at that. It is in no way the policy of this government to in any way deny people with disabilities the opportunity to be engaged in meaningful work. I continue to choose to describe the sheltered workshop concept in that fashion because it is better understood in the community. It is our desire to support sheltered workshops. I will certainly examine what has been put forward and, if any changes are needed in the interests of properly implementing the government's policy, those changes will be made.