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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 27..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

application of the best interests principle. It is never in the best interests of a child to be placed at real risk of loss of life or the infliction of serious harm and yet it would be precisely in those cases that the court would be obliged to be most circumspect about making a finding.

The Committee also notes the views of the Community Advocate who stated that a focus on "evidence gathering"is very different from a focus on asking "is the child safe?"

...a concern about whether something is going to hold up in court can act as a fatal distraction to child protection decision making.

Many members have been aware of these issues for a long time. Once again, these issues require equal attention in this inquiry. I hope I have made the point that this is not just about children in care: this is about children in their own homes and it involves the whole system. The 1997 committee report stressed the need to look at prevention and intervention. We are focusing on the sharp end but we need to do that. Governments, when responding to any of these social issues, tend to focus on the sharp end because that is where it gets really messy and that is where people get caught.

The early intervention and prevention issues must be given equal focus. When the minister initially responded to these issues she said that she wanted to separate the crisis response from the prevention issues and the less serious allegations. I commend her for that. I hope that this inquiry will examine related matters. I also hope that it will be a broad inquiry. The government's response and the minister's response to the next committee's report should restore our trust. The Canberra community wants to be assured that this issue will be dealt with.

Mr Smyth: Will the minister move that her statement be noted so that Assembly members are afforded an opportunity to discuss it later? Ministerial speeches and statements are normally circulated so that members can follow the speeches and re-read them later. As we have not been afforded that opportunity, I ask the minister to table her speech. Members will then be able to obtain a copy of that speech, re-read it and obtain a full understanding of what the government is doing.

MR SPEAKER: I ask the minister to table her speech and thereupon to move that the document be noted.

MS GALLAGHER (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations): I am happy to table my speech, which contains additions and handwritten notes. I present the following paper:

Child Protection in the ACT-Ministerial statement, 10 February 2004.

I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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