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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4348..

MR STANHOPE: It is my pleasure to the table the government's position paper on the system of statutory oversight in the ACT entitled "The Right System for Rights Protection". The position paper includes the government response to the review of statutory oversight and community advocacy agencies and to the submission from the Disability Legislative Reform Working Group on the functions of a disability commissioner. Importantly, the position paper outlines the new structure for statutory oversight bodies that will be implemented in the ACT. In developing this new structure, the government reviewed a broad range of statutory oversight and community advocacy bodies. The position paper draws on key areas identified in the review of statutory oversight and community advocacy agencies, the ACT Health review and the board of inquiry into disability services. It was also informed by extensive community consultation.

We have sought to establish a new structure for statutory oversight in the ACT that will deliver better quality services to the community. The government commissioned the independent review of statutory oversight and community agencies in April 2003. The key consideration was to establish a structure that would be more efficient and flexible than current arrangements and one that will stand the test of time. The review report confirmed the need, also identified in the ACT Health review, to consolidate the existing complaints bodies, thereby ensuring an optimum system for consumers and citizens, as well as resource flexibility.

As the review noted, a series of small stand-alone agencies will not be able to undertake the challenging tasks expected of them. The new model will establish the Human Rights and Service Review Commission, which will comprise the Human Rights Commissioner, the Discrimination Commissioner, the Health Services Commissioner, the Disability Services Commissioner and a community services commissioner. The Disability Services Commissioner is a new position which implements the government's commitment in response to the board of inquiry into disability services. The establishment of a community services commissioner takes account of the views put to the government, most notably by the ACT Council of Social Service, that there is a need for independent oversight of a range of community services provided by both government and non-government agencies in the ACT.

The scope of the commissioner's oversight responsibilities will be subject to some further community consultation but will almost inevitably include public and community housing, homelessness services, emergency relief services, youth services, generalist community services and counselling and support services. The government considers that a structure, which encompasses the appointment of commissioners with specific responsibilities for particular issues, increases the transparency, accessibility and accountability of the statutory oversight system.

The commission will be headed by a president whose principal roles will be to receive complaints under all relevant legislation and to conciliate complaints where possible. The president will also be able to delegate the investigation of complaints to commissioners. Each commissioner will have statutory functions and powers relevant to their areas of responsibility to undertake monitoring, compliance and community education activities, as well as to investigate complaints.

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