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CHILD ABUSE - MANDATORY REPORTING
MS McRAE (11.01): I move:
That this Assembly requests the Chief Minister to produce a plan for the implementation of mandatory reporting and report on progress towards its implementation every sitting week until it is operational.
Let me say at the outset - and I will try to repeat it a couple of times so that people understand that this is what I really mean - that what I am calling for today is the development of a plan and then a regular reporting on the plan every week we sit. I am not asking for the plan to be done tomorrow. I am not asking for mandatory reporting to be brought in in any great hurry. I am asking for this Assembly to consider its collective responsibility toward mandatory reporting and, collectively, to ask the Chief Minister to show our collective concern about mandatory reporting in a public way through a process of developing a plan and then giving us a progress report on the plan each time the Assembly sits, perhaps once in a two-week sitting later in the year, or once a week if appropriate, even if no progress has been made. I am not asking for action to be taken in any hurry. I am asking that the Assembly be kept informed and that, through the Assembly, the general public be kept informed of where we are going with mandatory reporting.
I know as well as everyone else that reports on the value of mandatory reporting are divided. There have been any number of reports. There has been legislation in other places. There have been attempts to introduce some form of non-mandatory reporting but some sort of obligatory reporting. In every instance, if one scours the literature or has a bit of a talk to people involved, one finds that there are strongly divided opinions. There is evidence weighing up on both sides, on the pros and cons, of mandatory reporting. There has been considerable debate in Australia and elsewhere about whether mandatory reporting does or does not reduce the level of child abuse. I am not convinced, but I have been involved with the debate for a long time and I know that, if we do not make the reporting of child abuse mandatory, then we are accepting the “live and let live” mentality and turning a blind eye to often inevitable tragedy. Today the action that I urge on the Assembly is for us to make a collective statement about the role of mandatory reporting in our community. I would like to see some movement towards a more comprehensive implementation plan.
As I wrote this speech last night I could hear people in government saying, “You should have done it. You were in power for three years. What is the matter with you?”. No doubt I will hear a lot of that just so that a new government can prove to the electorate that somehow we were the devil incarnate and they are angels about to clear the Territory of every problem that ever existed. That is all right. That is political posturing. I suppose that it makes them feel good to say all of that, but when all the noise has died down there are 17 of us left who are responsible for the good of the people of the ACT and particularly the children of the ACT. We are collectively responsible for the implementation of the will of the people of the ACT.
I believe that what the Government did in the last three years was not too bad. My colleagues who made the decisions will no doubt fill you in with the details of the decisions they made, but it was clear at all times that our Ministers were sensitive to community perceptions. They included in budgets more money to deal with the issue. They dealt with the complexities of the issue and were responsive to it.