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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 1078..


Child protection

MR PRATT: My question is to the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services. In your response to a question from Mr Cornwell, you stated that the fax that you received from your department did not refer to your ministerial response. I quote you:

At the time I did not know the relationship of that advice to the government's response. It was not mentioned in the response. The response related to recommendations of the committee report, not to section 162 (2) of the act. I did not understand it at the time.

Why do you expect us to believe that you did not understand the connection between the brief and your response, when the brief refers to the relevant section of the community services and social equity report? It states:

6.23 The Committee is extremely concerned at reports Family Services has failed to comply with its obligations under the Act.

It then outlines section 162 as the area of concern of the committee.

MS GALLAGHER: I do not know how many times you want to go through this. We can go through the timing again. Somewhere between four and five, prior to the Assembly adjourning on the final sitting day, I received a rather alarming brief from my department-a rather short brief, not going into too much detail-alluding me to the fact that they had failed to meet statutory obligations under the Children and Young People Act.

Sections in that brief related to the committee report-not to the response given by government. It said, "We are responding to the government."There was not a recommendation about 162 (2). As a minister I could have stood up here and said, "By the way everybody, I've just been given a brief that tells me a few things that I'm not sure about. I don't understand because there's no detail. I think it is alarming but I'm not sure, because it does not really tell me anything about what it is to do with."Instead, I chose to talk to the Chief Minister and say, "I think this is a serious matter. I'm calling my Chief Executive in tomorrow morning to talk to her. I'm referring this matter to you today."The Chief Minister referred that to the Chief Executive of his department that day. I met with Ms Hinton at 9 am the following morning. I wrote to her overnight asking her, "What did that really mean? What about the status of children in care? How many children did this relate to? What were the allegations made?"

In hindsight, I could have stood up in the adjournment debate and told you all that I had a 21/2 page brief that did not really tell me anything about what I felt at the time was a rather alarming matter. Instead, I chose to research the facts, find out what it was about, and put in place plans to fix it. Then, on the first sitting day of the new year-the next opportunity that I had, as this had occurred on the last sitting day of the previous year-I made a statement to the Assembly that gave members all the facts that I had.

The ministerial code of conduct refers to issues such as respect for the law, systems of government, integrity, accountability, honesty, diligence, economy and efficiency. I have, at all times, acted within that code of conduct. I have provided the information to


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