Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (30 March) . . Page.. 1283..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
services. This has all had to be balanced within existing resources. It has placed enormous pressure on the department, as you know.
Our primary concern at the moment is, of course, to meet the needs of those emergency and crisis situations of which, I understand from information that I have been given, which I request on a weekly basis, there were 98 reports to family services last week alone. On top of this, we have had senior staff taken out of the department to put submissions together and work on the audit. The audit of those files is currently under way and that has impacted on the delay for the commissioner as well, but a very comprehensive submission was provided by the department. The department is working very closely with the commissioner. The commissioner was aware, in my understanding, that the submission was going to be delayed because of those pressures on family services and it is merely one reason why her report is going to be delayed. There is no unwillingness on the part of the department to work with the commissioner and there is certainly no unwillingness on my part. We are doing everything that we can to meet her request. It turns out that the inquiry is a little more comprehensive and the issues require a bit more of the commissioner's attention and that has resulted in the three-week delay.
MRS BURKE: I thank the minister for that answer. Given that response and given early comments that you have made, Minister, why did you not understand that this inquiry would take so long, given the advice that you have had that your department had been breaking the law for a considerable time?
MS GALLAGHER: We announced the inquiry without the full information about what had led to the breakdown and what it meant. I could not be provided with information about the number of children concerned, the number of reports concerned or the nature of the allegations concerned. All I knew was that it had been going on for some time and that the department was working backwards to look at a certain period of time-initially the six months prior to December last year. The commissioner's scope is wider than that and, as it has turned out, other issues have arisen. Public interest in the inquiry is substantial and there have been a number of submissions. It was the government's desire to have this report as quickly as possible so that we could move on and put in place measures to ensure that we had the best child protection system in the ACT. If the commissioner now tells the Chief Minister and me that she needs three weeks longer to report on that and to provide that information to us, then that is out of our hands. She needs three more weeks. We set the 16th and she was working to the 16th. She called my office on Thursday and wrote to the Chief Minister on Friday saying that she needed three weeks longer. There is no conspiracy in it. She just needs a bit longer to write the report.
Betty Searle House
MS MacDONALD: My question is to the minister for housing, Mr Wood. Today, I was very pleased to launch Betty Searle House, or Betty's place, a project that I know is very close to the minister's heart. Minister, could you please explain to the Assembly the significance of Betty Searle House and why we are all so pleased to see it open?
MR WOOD: This project has a long history. I give credit to the originators of that proposal, but it was not going anywhere until we got into government and got it moving. I explained at the launch a little while ago that I had a longer attachment to it than