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Australian . . Page.. 153 ..

placements as a result. These issues will be given full consideration before a decision can be reached on the introduction of mandatory reporting. It should be noted, though, Mr Osborne, that the current level of reporting of child abuse in the ACT is comparatively high even without mandatory reporting. I am advised that our level of child abuse reporting is similar to that of States who do have mandatory reporting.

In relation to the dispute involving the child protection workers, there is a bit of deja vu for the former Government here because they had a similar dispute in 1994 and I do not think they seemed to do very much at all about it. When we took over government we inherited a Child Protection Unit which was significantly understaffed and there were significant problems. I am delighted to say that I have had lengthy discussions with a number of people, including Sue Ball and representatives from the regional areas. A number of points were discussed and a number of things were set in train. My officers of the Housing and Family Services Bureau have been putting forward to the union a number of very good proposals. I will give you an update in relation to that, Mr Osborne.

The Government acknowledges the concern of the CPSU, and its officials are meeting with union officials and delegates on a very regular basis to resolve this dispute. I understand that there were meetings as late as yesterday. The Government has proposed to the union an objective review of child protection workloads and, in the interim, workload limits to ease stress on workers. Cases will be prioritised to ensure that children are not placed at risk. I am advised that the union is to meet on Thursday, tomorrow, to respond to these proposals. Whilst the review is in progress new staff will be recruited and supervision and support will be provided to workers, which is something that did not occur over the last year or so, it seems, and is something which they are very keen to see happen.

In relation to the new staff, I am advised that current plans are to recruit 11 new staff. The advertisements went in the Australian, I think, and the Canberra Times on 15 April. On 20 April they also appeared in the Government Gazette. Arrangements are being made to interview people who are applying. We want to recruit a further 11 staff. This will bring the number up to, I understand, 30. That is effectively about a 50 per cent increase in staffing levels. I think that in itself will go a very long way to alleviating some of the problems the workers at present are suffering. I am very keen to see that proceed as quickly as possible because I think that that, in itself, is going to go a long way.

There are a couple of other issues, Mr Osborne, which I will be taking up with relevant government agencies in other areas and which I am sure will also assist the workers in doing their very important job.

Mrs Carnell: I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.

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