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Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

One Facs – Cutting Red Tape

Location: Wesley Mission Perth Auditorium, 93 William Street, Perth

E&OE

  • My federal and state parliamentary colleagues
  • The Reverend Des Cousins—Chair, Wesley Mission Board
  • Other members of the Wesley Mission Board
  • Chris Hall—CEO, Wesley Mission Perth
  • Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Des for your introduction.

What a great idea it is to hold events like this each year, to keep the public up to date on the Mission’s work in the community, to reflect on the past year’s experiences, and look to the future.

It’s extraordinary to think that Wesley Mission Perth had its origins when the first Methodist church service was held under a jarrah tree in what is now the Hay Street Mall in 1830 – 175 years ago.

While I know that the Mission runs a variety of services that support some of the most vulnerable people in our society I think it is the Mission’s reputation for delivering their services in such a compassionate and caring way that makes the extra difference.

I’m not going to spend all my time today telling you what a fantastic job everyone at Wesley Mission does – we all know that.

I’m sure all your clients in Perth, whatever their needs, appreciate enormously the help you offer.

I will, however, take a moment to pay particular praise to the efforts of the many volunteers at Wesley. As with many church-based and not-for-profit organisations in Australia, Wesley relies heavily on the amazing efforts and commitment of volunteers.

For example, Wesley Creditcare would be lost without the expertise of volunteers who work as court representatives, financial counsellors and emergency relief interviewers.

The latest figures tell us that last year 41 per cent of adult Australians volunteered a total of 836 million hours!

I make particular mention of the contribution of volunteers because the Howard Government recognises that the best way we can solve problems facing our communities is through partnerships. Partnerships between community organisations, business and government. It is what the Prime Minister calls the social coalition.

In recognition that we all have a part to play in this social coalition I have chosen today to announce a new approach to make it easier for community organisations to work with my department.

This new approach is called One FACS. The aim is to cut red tape to make it easier for community organisations, such as Wesley Mission, to do business with the Australian Government.

My goal mirrors that of the Prime Minister and Treasurer, who earlier this month announced a major review aimed at cutting red tape for business.

Well, I work with community organisations a lot more than I deal with what you might call more traditional businesses and I want to cut red tape for community organisations.

It is easy to see how red tape can get out of control. Around a quarter of the total spending by the Australian Government each year is on programs run by my department. In fact the Australian Government funds some 80 programs through my department.

At any one time, a community organisation might apply to deliver one or a combination of these programs. For some, it can mean having to go through a number of bureaucratic processes, and deal with several officials from different areas of my department.

Cutting red tape will mean that community organisations, many of which rely heavily on volunteers, can spend less time dealing with bureaucrats and more time helping people in the community.

Of course, government funding involves taxpayers’ money and governments must be accountable for who receives this money, how it is spent and what results are achieved.

These are fundamental elements of any responsible government’s administration of public monies.

But I think we can do better. I think we can make it easier for community organisations to deal with government.

I am confident that we can reduce the layers of different processes, unnecessary paperwork and red tape and still maintain an appropriate standard of accountability.

This could involve, for example, moves to standard application forms, funding agreements and reporting requirements. It might also mean rationalising selection rounds and review activity.

Community organisations have the experience and first-hand knowledge of both good and bad practice in dealing with government and I want to hear about both.

Round table discussions will be held with a range of service providers so that they can contribute ideas and suggestions to my department on ways to reduce the barriers they face in working with the Australian Government

As I mentioned earlier, I see the Australian Government working in partnership with community organizations. Together we are all working to help improve the lives of Australians so we need to take the opportunity to talk about how we achieve this joint endeavour in the best way possible.

I have asked that these round table forums involve representatives from a cross section of service providers – large and small, metropolitan, regional and rural, and those which deliver one or many programs.

I expect these consultations to begin before the end of the year.

I intend to host a couple of these forums so that I can hear for myself first hand the suggestions that are made.

A website is also being established so that you can contribute your ideas via email and keep abreast of progress with the project. The address is www.facs.gov.au and click on the link under “news”

The One FaCS approach will help to cut the burden on community organisations, freeing up their resources so that they can be directed towards providing services to the Australian community

You have my commitment that I will work hard to make it easier for community service providers to work with FaCS and give them more time to get on with the job that they do best.

Thank you.