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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 3481..


MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

illustrious newspaper again. I would like to refer the chamber to what the Standing Committee on Community Services and Social Equity, of which I am chair, actually said about the issue when it looked into it in August 2003. In chapter 6 of its report, at recommendation 39, the committee referred to the statutory obligations being discharged by people in, at that time, the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services.

The issue was not about the reality of lack of safety for children in the community at that time. The issue was that officers had not discharged their statutory obligation. That is what the committee put forward. In previous committee hearings, estimates and annual reports, there was reference to the lack of compliance with statutory obligation. I can recall no suggestion of lack of safety being put to the minister by me or any member of my committee in the meetings which I either chaired or took part in.

I, as chair of that committee, did not have conversations with the minister about the lack of safety of children in the ACT; I had conversations with the minister about the lack of compliance with statutory obligation. Now I think it is important that we recall what happened after that. It was found in a review of that, which was actually kicked off by the minister and the Chief Minister, that there had not been compliance since 1996. The actual act was in 2001; that is when compliance was an obligation. The then Liberal government gave an undertaking to this Assembly that that would happen. It did not. Again, Mr Speaker, we are talking about the discharge of statutory obligation.

The minister was asked about it-I think it was in the annual reports. She had been the minister there for a number of weeks. It is improper and inappropriate to beat up that the minister should have done something. It is inappropriate and it is juvenile to do that. When the minister looked into it, what did she do with it? She brought it to this chamber. She could have just instructed her department to fix it, and what would have happened is that the statutory obligation would promptly have been discharged and the systemic problems revealed in the report would never have been addressed.

This minister brought the thing to this Assembly, and she has said, "This is in an issue. We will go down this track, find out what is wrong and we will fix it."As a result of that report and the minister's actions, the government has agreed in 28 instances specifically with recommendations and has agreed with most of the others in principle. We then saw the Vardon report, which went a little bit more deeply and informed the minister what the situation was-or at least hinted at it.

We saw the minister's and the government's response to the Vardon report: millions of dollars pumped into child protection; a change in the organisational structure; a significant recruitment campaign, including an overseas recruitment campaign to have more people in the system; greater education for people in the system; and greater accountability of people who are looking after our kids. We have seen the implementation strategy and we have Gwen Murray's report, The territory's children, which was delivered just the other day, hinting at but indicating exactly what was going on. We have had the government's response to that, and now we have got an addendum to the government's response to that.

I see in the media a pathetic attempt to blow this up into child abuse that has been known to this government since early 2003. Well, that is not so. That is just a plain lie. That is a plain falsehood, which is being perpetrated in the media and prolonged by the media


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