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What's Happening With The Dole-For-Art Scheme?

ACT Social Services Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today questioned why the Government is withholding information regarding the number of people who have gone on to its PACE programme under which aspiring artists can receive the dole.

"Back in February I lodged written Parliamentary questions seeking to find out how many people had entered the PACE programme since its introduction in November. Earlier questions about how many unemployed had arts and culture as their first job choice were answered within the five-day required timeframe.

"This time, I received an interim response on February 21 telling me the information could not be gathered in the required time and I would receive it later. Over a month later I have still not received the information.

"Even more strangely, I have not received answers to a series of routine questions regarding the total numbers of registered unemployed people as at the end of January. I have been asking such questions for the past two years and have always received the information in the required timeframe. This time I received an interim answer from the Associate Minister's office on February 20 to tell me the information couldn't be supplied in the required time. Since then, I have again heard nothing.

"What is going on? The apparent refusal of the Government to supply such information, which can be easily collated, goes against the democratic process. It is however consistent with the approach of Social Services Minister Steve Maharey who has developed a pattern of covering up anything that might be remotely embarrassing for himself. Evidence of this was his systematic cover-up of damaging CYFS unallocated case figures between June last year and earlier this year.

"The fact I've received neither PACE nor registered unemployed figures leads me to suspect that there has been a flood of applicants to receive the dole under the scheme.

"I warned from the outset that the scheme was ill-advised and had the potential for abuse. It also has the potential to give people unrealistic expectations and trap them in a cycle of dependency. There is also the real risk that the scheme could end up costing millions of dollars of taxpayers' money.

"It is in the public interest that we know what is happening with the PACE programme. The Government must stop withholding the information and release it now," Dr Newman said.

Ends

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