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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (12 February) . . Page.. 318..


MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

I received that advice, I believe-not having my notes here-on 12 January. I met the Chief Minister over 13 and 14 January. He signed a Treasurer's Advance for the resources that I needed on 14 January, and I made a statement on the 15th. When everything I had to go to the public with was available, I went the next day. There was no delay. No children were being put at risk during that time, and measures were being put in place every single day.

For you to sit there, Mrs Burke, and say that I deliberately withheld information for a period of time is simply incorrect. When you are dealing with child protection you need to go to the community or go public with all the information. I could not go public on 11 December and say that I had been given a brief that the department was not complying with that section of that act, because the first question to me would be, "What does that mean? How many children does that mean? What has occurred?"I would have said, "I do not know yet. I am seeking the answers now."

I went public as soon as the Treasurer's Advance was approved. We had to speak to Commissioner Vardon, and we had to speak to experts about the review that we were putting in place. It would have been no good me going forward without a proper explanation of what the current situation was. It was all finalised late on 14 January, and I went public on the 15th. You cannot accuse me of sitting on this and not acting. It is simply incorrect, Mrs Burke. You can keep going around and saying this to everyone you like, but the reality is I have told the truth and I reacted appropriately.

MRS DUNNE (3.53): Mr Speaker, this matter of public importance about child protection in the ACT was brought about because of the serious failings that have come to light in the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services. It is not an easy thing to talk about. It is a matter of deep concern and regret that we are going down the path of other, larger jurisdictions where this has become a blight on the body politic and a blight on public policy.

Much has been said and much could be said about what has happened in this debate, and there has been a vast amount of speculation. I would like to stick to the facts, as much as I know them, but I would also like to ask some questions which, somewhere along the line, might be answered. This story goes back to May 2000, when a new piece of legislation was implemented: the Children and Young People Act. That did bring about some groundbreaking changes.

The next instalment of the story was when the Standing Committee on Community Services and Social Equity instituted an inquiry in April 2002 into the rights, interests and wellbeing of children and young people. That was the beginning of a process which, for whatever reason, a range of people who have higher or lesser responsibilities in this area did not observe closely enough.

We know that somewhere in the September-October period of 2002 there must have been a full cabinet consultation on the departmental submission to that committee of inquiry. When I was a staffer working in government, if there was going to be a departmental submission to an inquiry like this, it would have been signed off by the whole of government. That meant that there would have been a draft cabinet submission which would go out for consultation, and then there would be a final cabinet submission.


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