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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2532 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

the effort and the money. Children are born into this world innocent; they do not ask to be born; all that they ask is to be loved. To be abused in any form is totally beyond comprehension, and we as an Assembly should do, and be doing, our utmost to protect these innocent members of our society.

God help any children who slip through the safety net and slip through the net in areas like Tuggeranong or Molonglo which at this stage do not have any facilities or any programs in place. I only wish, Minister, that you had been a little more generous in your support of mandatory reporting. I only hope that we are not debating this issue like we did the mental health issue, after some tragic incident. I would like once again to state my support for what Ms McRae just said.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (3.12 am): This is an important issue; but it is an issue on which I do not believe that we should be throwing insults the way we do, because if we wanted to go down that track we could ask the previous Government what it did, not just for one year but for the whole time it was in office. Mandatory reporting has existed for close on 10 years in some States. It certainly has existed for five years. I do not think that it is the appropriate way to go. What we did when we got into power was have a look at ways in which we could implement it, even though it had not been done by the previous Government. There is not only $50,000 but also $60,000 rolled over from last year, which was not spent by the previous Government because it did nothing. That makes it $110,000 for training from now until the end of the financial year. There is only just over six months left.

We are planning, as we said, to go to a region-by-region approach. We looked in depth at whether we should go to a region-by-region approach or a profession-by-profession approach, as Ms McRae said. We decided to go to the region-by-region approach because we needed to get some knowledge of what sort of increase in reporting we would get. Going to a single profession, particularly the ones that would be most obvious - and that would be either nurses or doctors - would not give us that information. Doctors all around Australia are traditionally low reporters, regardless of whether or not there is mandatory reporting. Nurses currently in the Community Nursing Service report anyway. It is very difficult to go on a profession-by-profession basis. We did the work and looked at what that would achieve. We decided that the only way we could avoid the problems of the States was to go to a phased-in introduction to determine the effect.

The ACT is in a unique position. We already report at very high levels; in fact, at levels that are similar to the States that do have mandatory reporting. We are not sure what is going to happen, but I think that the approach that has been taken is appropriate and is well funded for what we are doing. The $110,000 will adequately fund the first regional education program. We will then be able to see what increase we get in reporting and be able to fund that. What happened in the States is that they introduced mandatory reporting willy-nilly, ended up with huge increases, ended up with kids falling through the net and ended up - as happened in New South Wales anyway - with children actually dying, simply because there were not resources on the ground to handle the increase. I do not want that to happen here.

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