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Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15481

Ms GERICK (5:44 PM) —On past occasions, I have quite often spoken about the great work done by many community groups in Canning. These groups are made up mainly of volunteers, who spend many hours working to make life in Canning better. Over the past month I have visited and spoken to a number of groups, including Armadale Home Help, Gosnells Women's Health Service, the South Metropolitan Migrant Resource Service and Gosnells Community Support Services.

All of these groups I have spoken to in the past have concentrated on the new programs that they are trying to develop. In recent conversations they have spoken at great length about the pressure they are under and how they are afraid that the services they offer are going to be reduced because of the imposition of the GST.

When I visited Armadale Home Help last fortnight I spent time speaking to the CEO and the chairman of the board. They told me that they had spent the last weekend reading through the `How to get ready for the GST manual'. The feeling the manual gave the chairman of the board was that the time he had spent getting Armadale Home Help ready and improving services for our seniors was not appreciated and that maybe it was time to pack it all in and give up because it is all just too hard.

In recent weeks, the bookkeeper had volunteered to go in in her own time to do a GST course. She was horrified to be told in that course that each time they made an error in filling out the forms for GST there was a maximum penalty of $2,000. The people who work at these organisations are normally volunteers or not well paid. They are not going to be encouraged to stay in these very worthwhile fields if they feel they are under threat of causing their organisation to be charged fees. It is necessary for them to buy new computer systems, which is another cost that they cannot afford.

We seem to be putting up more and more barriers to stop people doing the work that we know makes our communities better places in which to live. In the past, all of these groups were tax free. All they had to do was get the form when they were buying the goods and tick the box down the bottom which said `sales tax exempt'. The government argues that it will be all right and they will be GST exempt. It is not the same because you have to fill out all the paperwork. If you want to claim back the cost of all your inputs, you have to keep all the paperwork, fill out the forms and, most importantly, you have to wait three months to lodge the form and then you get your money back. None of these organisations have buckets of money lying around. They all scramble to meet the obligations they have. How are they going to cope with the lack of cash flow in paying these GST costs? The reality is that services are going to be cut.

When I was at the Gosnells Women's Health Service the coordinator told me that her staff were volunteering to come in unpaid so that they could maintain the services that they were offering now. She said, `We do not know how much longer we can carry on doing this.' The people in Gosnells are going to start missing out. The services that these groups offer are not offered by anyone else. They are such services as lawn mowing and house cleaning for the elderly, taking the elderly out shopping, giving women from ethnic backgrounds a chance to come and meet other women and perhaps improve their English skills.

We need to encourage these places. The government is failing to recognise the contribution that these groups make. Not only is the government going to make them tax collectors; it is going to make them pay for the privilege of collecting tax for the government, which is an absolute disgrace. It is time the government realised what it is doing and sat down and worked out a simpler way for charities and small organisations to comply with the requests of the GST so that our services are not cut and the volunteers who have spent many years building up these groups do not feel that they are being ripped off and that they have wasted their time because this government does not appreciate the good work they have done.