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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3117..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

where appropriate. A statutory requirement that conciliation of a complaint must be kept separate from consideration by the commission of the substance of the complaint will underlie the administrative decisions within the commission about how tasks are dealt with.

One of the amendments in this bill is to clarify the role of the commission as an independent third party in the conciliation process, whose task is to assist parties involved in a complaint to resolve the concerns giving rise to the complaint.

Mr Speaker, the decision to alter the structure of the commission is consistent with a number of decisions made in this budget to reduce expenditure on overhead expenses and to streamline administrative processes. While the community expects and deserves high quality services, a responsible government must ensure that the best value is obtained from public funds, and this amendment bill is consistent with these objectives.

The Human Rights Commission Act establishes the commission as an independent body consisting of members acting together in a collegiate manner. By distributing the tasks that would have been performed by the president among the other members of the commission and the staff of the commission, we can achieve a more effective use of the funds available. This is not, as has been suggested by Dr Foskey and others, a case of the government stepping away from its commitment to high quality and accessible statutory oversight services for the ACT. It is simply a matter of seeking to get the best value for the community from the limited funds available to the government. Although the amount allocated to the commission in the budget has been reduced, the intention is to obtain greater efficiency of funding rather than a reduction in services.

Only the president will be removed from the current commission structure. The range of commissioners' functions will be retained. As the government has made clear at all times in relation to the commission, it may be both efficient and effective to appoint one person to more than one commission role. Indeed, the Human Rights Commission Act explicitly provides for this to occur.

Mr Speaker, commencement of the commission has been delayed due to a number of factors, including the preparation of this year's budget and a need to arrange suitable accommodation. However, once the structure of the commission has been settled by this bill, we will move quickly to appoint commissioners. I intend to have the Human Rights Commission commence operation at the beginning of November this year.

This bill makes a number of straightforward and sensible changes to the Human Rights Commission Act. It allows for the implementation of a budget decision designed to reduce spending and increase efficiency without compromising the quality of the services delivered to the community. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

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

Tobacco (Compliance Testing) Amendment Bill 2006

Debate resumed from 17 August 2006, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

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