Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 August 2005 2005) . . Page.. 3093 ..
commission but the public advocate will continue to be able to investigate concerns, complaints and allegations about matters referring to the function of that office.
Also, there is a provision to protect people who, for genuine reasons, give information to the public advocate. This ensures that people who believe they have information that the public advocate ought to have in order to properly carry out the task of protecting the rights of children and young people and people with a disability will not be committing a breach of confidence or of professional conduct rules or ethics.
Members will be aware that the scrutiny of bills committee, in report 14 of 15 August 2005, commented on this bill and drew attention to the protection provisions in clause 15. The committee raised the issue of whether providing this protection to people giving information to the public advocate could be a breach of the right to privacy provided in the Human Rights Act. I have responded to the committee indicating my confidence that there is no incompatibility with the Human Rights Act. The provision is designed to avoid situations where a person who has information that could be used by the public advocate to better protect a child or young person or person with a disability is not constrained by professional conduct rules or fears of defamation action from passing that information on.
Other minor changes that this bill makes to the provisions supporting this office are:
• improved definition of client groups have been provided by including definitions of children and young people and clarifying the definition of people with a disability;
• the definition of forensic patient has been brought into line with the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 2004 by referring both to mental illness and mental dysfunction and making it clear that the public advocate can help people whose behaviour is the result of either problem; and
• more efficient delegation provisions have been provided to ensure that the staff of the public advocate’s office are in a position to provide continuous guardianship services to people who need them, unaffected by illness or other necessary absences of individual staff members.
This important work of supporting vulnerable community members will continue under the new name of the office of the public advocate.
In conclusion, I would like to thank officers from the Office of Children, Youth and Family Support, from the Department of Justice and Community Safety and from the Office of the Community Advocate for their work on this bill; also, all the community members, particularly the children and young people, who told us what they wanted in their commissioner.
This government is strengthening the ability of children and young people to participate in the issues that affect them. We are giving them a voice, through the commissioner. The introduction of the children and young people commissioner contributes to making our community a stronger and safer place for children and young people.
I am disappointed that the opposition will not be supporting this bill. I had hoped for a stronger argument from them as to why they could not support the role of