Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 7 October 2021) . . Page.. 2873 ..
However, the ACT Labor-Greens government is trying to accomplish something very significant through this omnibus bill, and something that I do not believe is a favourable legislative change, with the proposed amendments to the Taxation Administration Act, which I will address during the detail stage.
I want to thank the representatives of the Attorney-General’s office and his department for a briefing on Tuesday afternoon and for the follow-up correspondence on Wednesday morning.
In closing, the Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill, except for part 11, dealing with amendments to the Taxation Administration Act.
MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra—Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Business and Better Regulation, Minister for Human Rights and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (11.56): I am pleased to speak in support of the Operational Efficiencies (COVID-19) Legislation Amendment Bill.
The bill will permanently adopt a range of measures that were introduced by the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 and the COVID-19 Emergency Response Legislation Amendment Act 2020 to temporarily assist with the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these measures benefits government and the community beyond the COVID-19 environment.
I would like to focus on a key measure that will be continued under this bill—the vulnerable persons complaints jurisdiction of the ACT Human Rights Commission. The ability to take complaints about the abuse and neglect of vulnerable people, including elderly people and people with disability, is vital to respond to elder abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable people in our community.
The ACT disability and community services commissioner, Karen Toohey, could previously take complaints about services for older people and people with a disability. However, she could not respond to concerns or complaints about abuse and neglect within private and family contexts. As we know, elder abuse and the abuse and neglect of vulnerable people also occur within those private and family contexts. When it happens there, it can be hard to address because of power imbalances and the lack of visibility around what happens behind closed doors. Making this jurisdiction permanent will give vulnerable people who find themselves in that situation a pathway to make a complaint.
The new powers of the Human Rights Commission complement criminal offences introduced by the ACT government regarding the abuse and neglect of vulnerable people. The complaints jurisdiction allows vulnerable people and their advocates to seek the assistance of the commission to investigate and try to resolve matters through conciliation—for example, where families need more help and support with caring for a vulnerable person. It also allows the commission to refer more serious matters for prosecution if appropriate or to assist advocates to seek orders from the ACAT regarding the conduct of guardians or attorneys under an enduring power of attorney.