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Hardgrave calls for help on access and equity.

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Shadow Minister For Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs



28 May 2003


The Government’s Settlement Services Review, released yesterday, vindicates the Opposition’s repeated criticisms of the Coalition’s approach to access and equity issues for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Those consulted during the Review expressed “considerable cynicism” about the Howard Government’s commitment to its Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society. It found that data collection by mainstream Commonwealth agencies is inadequate, programs are not sufficiently responsive or appropriately designed, and that agency budget allocations do not reflect the true cost of providing services to a culturally and linguistically diverse society. It identified particular problems in the areas of employment, skills recognition, housing, family support, aged care, health, education and youth services.

These devastating findings destroy Minister Hardgrave’s claims of a successful approach. Just two months ago, he issued a media release saying that there had been a significant increase in the number of mainstream agencies “achieving perfect scores” in the implementation of their access and equity strategies. His own Settlement Services Review shows that such claims have absolutely no credibility.

The Government says it will respond to community criticisms by asking the Auditor-General to assess access and equity performance in mainstream Commonwealth agencies. This is precisely what DIMIA is supposed to have been doing over the past seven years.

Minister Hardgrave proudly announced yesterday that the Government will establish a “high level task force”, chaired by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), to progress those aspects of the Settlement Services Review that require a whole of Government response. While this is a positive development, migrant groups well recall that Mr Howard deliberately dismantled Labor’s Office of Multicultural Affairs within his Department as soon as he was elected to office.

For further information: Laurie Ferguson MP 02 6277 4920 Warren Gardiner 0409 910 004