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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 August 2010) . . Page.. 3440 ..


would leave with the proposed Victims of Crime Commissioner. On the one hand, under proposed section 12(4), the commissioner would be required to refer all formal complaints to the relevant complaints entity—namely, the human rights commissioner, the Health Services Commissioner or the Ombudsman—but, on the other hand, section 12(5) allows the commissioner, before referring a complaint as required by subsection (4), to decide not to refer a complaint under certain defined circumstances.

This creates a potential conflict of interest for the commissioner if someone makes a formal complaint about a victim support service for which the commissioner is responsible, as it falls on the commissioner to decide whether the complaint should be referred on. This could potentially create a significant conflict of interest whereby the commissioner is deciding on complaints made about the commissioner’s own agency.

My amendment would remove that decision-making power from the commissioner in relation to referrals of formal complaints and require the commissioner to refer all formal complaints without deciding whether they should, in fact, be referred. This would not stop the commissioner attempting to resolve informal complaints as occurs presently, but once an informal complaint becomes formal or a formal complaint is submitted without first being made informally, the commissioner would have no choice but to refer it to the relevant complaints entity immediately. I think that this would be good for the perception of fairness and openness in the role of the commissioner. I commend the amendment to the Assembly.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (5.40): This is an important point in the context of the overall bill. Partly the changes being made by the government today are a clarification that the commissioner does not have any formal role in investigating complaints. The explanatory statement confirms that this is the case. This is a good step being made by the government because there has been some concern that there is a real or perceived conflict of interest in having the commissioner, on the one hand, managing the victims services scheme and, on the other hand, investigating the scheme when a complaint is made.

The bill attempts to make it clear that the formal investigative role should be performed by the Ombudsman and the health complaints commissioner. It does this by requiring the victims commission to refer on any formal complaints. That is a good change that is being made. As Mrs Dunne has rightly picked up, subsection (5) of proposed section 12 would give the commissioner the discretion not to forward on any complaint they deem vexatious, or other grounds as set out.

I think the amendment proposed by Mrs Dunne would strike out subsection (5) and leave the commissioner required to automatically forward on any formal complaint they receive. The Greens believe this fits with the government’s stated intention of leaving no formal investigative role with the commissioner. To leave open the possibility of the commissioner being criticised for not forwarding on any complaint about the service they run is counterproductive and goes against the other good changes being made today. The Greens will be supporting Mrs Dunne’s amendment.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (5.42): The government reluctantly will accept the amendment


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