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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (3 March) . . Page.. 655..


MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

not in place. My understanding is that all students with a disability have a plan in place. If they do not, I would like to know about it, and we will follow it up. Certainly we have followed up the cases that have been drawn to my attention, and plans have been in place for those children.

Child protection

MR CORNWELL: My question is to the Chief Minister. Minister, I refer to your comments on the family services problems in the Canberra Times of 22 January. I quote:

You can beat us around the head about why we didn't do something earlier, but that's the very point. We as a Government didn't know.

In fact, it has now come to light that the Community Advocate briefed Mr Corbell in October 2002. Mr Corbell gave the excuse yesterday that he was on leave on 22 January and was unaware of the Chief Minister's comments. Chief Minister, why didn't you contact Mr Corbell and ask him about whether he had been advised of the serious problems within family services when he was Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services?

MR STANHOPE: I acknowledge that the statement I made to the media on 22 January was wrong. I publicly acknowledged that a month or so ago. Upon advice-papers may have been provided by Ms Gallagher's office, or it may have been from other sources-I became aware, after I made the statement on 22 January, that Mr Corbell had been briefed. Having been made aware of that, I indicated that the statement I made on 22 January was wrong.

It was a mistake to make an assumption from conversations I had had with Ms Gallagher in December. I drew an assumption on the basis that the minister advised me that she had never been made explicitly aware of the issues in relation to non-reporting, just as I had never been made explicitly aware of them. As a result of that, I wrongly assumed that the matter had not come to the attention of the government.

In making the statement that the government was not aware, I had excluded any consideration of whether Mr Corbell as minister may have known. I was wrong. I have acknowledged that and expressed my regret for the fact that I made that incorrect statement. But I made the statement on the basis that this matter of non-reporting had not been drawn to my explicit attention at all.

I had discussed the matter with Ms Gallagher. I remember a conversation with Ms Gallagher some time in December in which I remember asking: were you explicitly aware of this subject? Ms Gallagher said to me, "No, I was not aware that this was an issue within my portfolio."On the basis of that, I did, I regret, make an assumption that this was news to the government. I was wrong. I had excluded from my thinking in that statement the fact that Mr Corbell had been minister for a year. I made a mistake.

MR CORNWELL: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, you were in error in your remark on 22 January. You knew about it in December. Why didn't you nevertheless contact Mr Corbell, given that the Community Advocate had first highlighted the issue in her 2001-02 annual report, sent to you, as Attorney-General?


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