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Government cuts legal centre funds as demand for workplace advice rises

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 29 May 2007

"With increasing numbers of employers and employees struggling to negotiate the complex legislative tangle of Work Choices it makes little sense for the Government to cut the funding for workplace advice," said Senator Rachel Siewert today.

When Senator Siewert cross-examined the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) in Senate Estimates today they were unable to justify why they had cut funding to community legal centres (CLCs) for providing workplace advice.

"The Government claimed that they could provide the advice for better value for money, yet they have done no assessment of what value for money they provide and they continue to refer people to CLCs," said Senator Siewert.

"I have heard from numerous community legal centres, including those centres de-funded by the OEA last November, that they are continuing to receive increasing numbers of referrals from the OEA and OWS," she said. "This makes no sense."

"How can the government justify ripping away funding from these overstretched centres and then continuing to refer more and more confused and needy clients to them?"

"If the OEA and the Office of Workplace Services (OWS) are not coping, and the CLCs don't have enough funding, how many vulnerable people are left without access to vital information and advice?"
"The government can't have it both ways. It must either fund CLCs to provide these vital services or ensure your agencies are up to the task," Senator Siewert said.

"It is clear that the government is more interested in cutting funds to community organisations and stomping on dissatisfaction with its workplace reforms, than in providing meaningful assistance to people confused by its new red tape," she said.

"Perhaps if a portion of the money spent on advertising Work Choices was diverted to meet this growing demand they would see a much better outcome."

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