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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 43..


Ministerial responsibility

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services. In her statement this morning she claimed that she first found out about the failure of her department to follow the law regarding advising the Community Advocate on 11 December, when her department advised her. However, she claimed to have read the Community Services and Social Equity Committee's report entitled the Rights, Interests and Well-being of Children and Young People, which states "...the Committee is extremely concerned at reports that Family Services has failed to comply with its obligations under the Act."She also seemed to claim that she did not read that section of the report, which is up there with: I only endorse the cover.

Ms Gallagher: No, I did not ever say that. I said I read the entire report.

MRS DUNNE: In that case, when did the minister become aware that her department was not complying with its obligations under the act?

MS GALLAGHER: I was advised for the first time that the department was not meeting its statutory obligations when the department briefed me on 11 December. I admitted again in my speech today that when I read that part of the report I had not picked up on it as early as I should have and that that was an area where I should have done better. When I reflect on that report, the reason I did not question the department about whether that was the case was that the report was relying on concerns raised by the Community Advocate that this part of the act was not being met. If the member reads on through the report she will see that the committee stopped short of a recommendation. The report has other paragraphs in it where it says "However, the committee is heartened by the views of the Community Advocate that she is supportive of the Refocus project and Ms Baikie's appointment as director."It will keep a watching brief on this matter.

When I look back on why it did not set off alarm bells in my head, it was the way the report read. It did not make a recommendation. The report was somewhat ambiguous. Although the statements are very clear, there are other paragraphs in the report where one could read that the matter was in hand and being dealt with. The area where I should have done better was to question the department about whether that was the case. In briefings I got on the government's response to the inquiry into the rights, interests and wellbeing of children and young people, I was never given advice that it was a problem. That is the area where I should have done better. On reflection, I needed to say to the department: are you meeting your obligations under section 162 (2)? I did not do that, and I did not do that because-and this is the only answer I can give on reflection-when I read the report there was not a recommendation about it. The committee's view was that it was serious. It thought the matter was in hand and it was going to keep a watching eye on it. I was given no indication that that was not the case.

MRS DUNNE: I ask a supplementary question. Given that this is such a fundamental part of your ministerial responsibilities, when did you read the report of the Standing Committee on Community Services and Social Equity? Did you read all of the report or just the recommendations?


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