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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1509..


MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

some of the cases. I am aware of that for my department, but it would be too difficult for me to comment on that issue as it is a bit separate from the industrial issue that I am looking at.

Child protection

MR CORNWELL: My question is to the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services. In a response to a question from me on 11 March, relating to the child abuse matter, you asked yourself these rhetorical questions:

I have asked myself the question: what led to my being given the briefing on the 11th? When we look back we find there was a period of activity in the days leading up to the 11th that, it appears, prompted the department to put in place meetings with people, documents, guidelines, as you say, director's instructions and, in the final instance, a briefing to me.

I have some questions: if the department knew about this on the 8th, why wasn't I told about it; why wasn't I told on the 10th when they met with the Community Advocate; why wasn't I even given the courtesy of a call prior to my tabling the government's response, saying, "Hey, we are about to send you a fax. This relates to the tabling of your response and you might want to hold off on it"? I have some questions on all of these things that did not happen.

You are the responsible minister. Clearly, there is a lot more to come out and you should really be able to answer our questions. Have you asked your department these questions on which you mused on 11 March, especially as it took you over a month to set up an independent inquiry? If you have asked your department these questions, what is the response?

MS GALLAGHER: These questions are currently being considered by the inquiry being undertaken by Commissioner Vardon. Appropriately, she will be interviewing the people that worked in the department at the time about all the issues that led up to this situation occurring. I answered that question honestly. They are the questions I have. I cannot answer those ones. They are being considered by Commissioner Vardon, but they are serious concerns to me. There is no way for me to have known all those things were occurring before the 11th. You just do not know those sorts of things are occurring on a day-to-day level in your department. I found out for the first time on the 11th.

It did take some time to put the inquiry together but that was because the information that was given to me on the 11th did not provide me with any information about what we should have an inquiry into. That was available only when we got the information back about the specifics of what the failure under the act was about, some of the preliminary information about how many children and young people that affected, and some of the issues that were involved in all that. We got that in the second week of January. Within two to three days we had an inquiry in place to answer all those questions. As you know, the inquiry will be reporting on the 7th. I imagine that we will be in a better position to answer all those questions then.

MR CORNWELL: Just for clarification, when you speak of "we", are you talking of your office-not your department, which clearly knew about these things but which did


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