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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 2581..


Minister Burch stood up and said, "What are we going to do?"She outlined, I think to my count, four different committees and panels. There is a children and young people service committee, an external review panel, there was another committee and another panel she mentioned. She said we are going to have professional development. What have we been doing for the past eight years under Vardon? Vardon said we needed professional development. We are going to have performance measurement of staff to see whether they are doing their jobs.

This is the problem with the care and protection system, and this is something the Public Advocate has said over and over again—there are so many committees and bits of oversight. Ms Hunter said one of the things we need is proper professional supervision of the front-line staff. There is nothing about that in the minister's response. Proper professional supervision is axiomatic in an organisation like the care and protection system. The fact that, after eight years, the Public Advocate can still fall for that and it has not been done is an indictment not just of this minister but of her predecessors as well—Katy Gallagher, Andrew Barr and Simon Corbell before that.

We had the little history lesson from Katy Gallagher. It is never her fault, but she had been minister for the care and protection system for some time before the Vardon report. Before that, Simon Corbell had been the minister for the best part of two years as well, during which time the Public Advocate's predecessor, the community advocate, had written to him on a number of occasions and told him, and told Katy Gallagher, that the law was not being complied with. It only came to a head when she told the same thing to a committee inquiry, and it took some time for that to leak out.

If we are going to look at the history, let us look at the eight years since Vardon or the 11 years since the Stanhope-Gallagher government. This is what the case is: the community advocate had written to the ministers saying the law was being breached. That is what Vardon was sent off to inquire into—why the law was being breached.

The Public Advocate years later said the law had been breached. What did this minister do? She went on the offensive and attempted to bully the Public Advocate. What did this minister do this week? She came out and said: "Don't you worry about it. I've got money in the budget. It's all under control."Look at the government response. It is full of little pull-out boxes with fine little aspirations—"The ACT government are committed to building stronger families within which children can flourish."You would expect that that was the case, but where is their track record on this? Their track record on this is Vardon and two reports from Anita Phillips saying the system is broken.

It is time that we threw out this incompetent minister and we had a real look at why the system is broken and how we can possibly fix it. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it will never be perfect. But the kids who are at risk in the ACT will never have a flying start in life while ever this minister has responsibility for them and while ever this government and their colleagues on the crossbench cover up for her.


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