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Wednesday, 20 March 2002
Page: 1745

Mr WINDSOR (9:40 AM) —I rise to address the House in relation to a very important issue not only for the electorate of New England but for Australia generally, particularly New South Wales. It is in relation to the social and community service award, commonly known as the SACS award. As members would know, a New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission finding recently increased the SACS award by 6.5 per cent. Normally the funding for these particular bodies is funded fifty-fifty by state and federal governments.

There are hundreds of organisations at risk at the moment because the Commonwealth government has not seen fit at this particular time to embrace the increases particularly in the salaries but also in other operating costs that have occurred because of the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission finding. That 6.5 per cent increase has meant that many institutions, non-government organisations and non-profit organisations in New South Wales are at risk and their duty of care to the people that they are looking after is itself at risk.

Many organisations within my electorate are at risk in relation to the delivery of duty of care and the cost structure they are operating under. I will just name a few: Tamworth Youth Care, Tamworth Meals on Wheels, the North-West Legal Service and Armidale Youth Care. The Commonwealth argues that wage increases have been indexed over a period of time and are built into the grant funding that is allocated to these particular organisations, but when you look at the Armidale Youth Refuge, for instance, you will see that over the last three years and with the projections for the coming year there has been a four per cent increase in the funding package and a 17 per cent increase in costs. Obviously that is not all salary costs; there are other costs, particularly insurance and other on-costs. But it does demonstrate that there is a need for the Commonwealth government to revisit this issue.

I urge the minister and the Assistant Treasurer—I have had a response from the Assistant Treasurer in relation to this matter—to work through some examples of the impact that this increase in cost is having not only on salaries but on the overall operating costs of these particular agencies. I urge the government to revisit this particular dilemma.