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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2533 ..

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (3.15 am): What Mrs Carnell has just said is absolutely astonishing, coming from a government which has not funded this program. In the Estimates Committee hearings in regard to the mandatory reporting of child abuse the Minister conceded that implementation of mandatory reporting would cost a couple of million dollars a year. That is common ground. My Government did the sums on this as well and came up with about the same figure. We have seen from the Government an allocation through the budget of $50,000 a year. Clearly, that will buy only the most minimal level of additional resourcing by way of training. It does not implement a mandatory reporting scheme, and that is the issue that Ms McRae quite rightly raised.

In the Estimates Committee hearings we got the same line from Mrs Carnell: It was all all right; it was all under control; the Government was being clever and was doing this by not doing it. The real truth of the matter came from the bureaucrats concerned. One of them offered a view that we did not need to undertake mandatory reporting because, in her view, there was no evidence of unmet need. However, when the questioning turned to the line manager in charge of this area she was clearly appalled by such a proposition. She made it quite clear that she regarded the implementation of mandatory reporting as a matter of some urgency. I agree with that. I do not know how many other members of the Assembly were present for that part of the Estimates Committee hearing, but it is one of the Estimates Committee hearings that have stuck most clearly in my mind and it is one of those areas where I believe that the Government still has to show its credentials. I do not believe what Mrs Carnell is saying - that everything is all right; that this Government is cleverer than any other; and that it will not be neglecting to protect children in the ACT. I believe that it is absolutely essential that mandatory reporting be implemented and be implemented very urgently.

I have taken seriously the comment that the Government has made in its response to the Estimates Committee report. The Government has said in its response that it will supplement the budget in order to implement mandatory reporting. If Mrs Carnell continues with this line that everything is okay and that we do not need to do anything and if she fails to actually do that supplementation to implement mandatory reporting, then I believe that she would rightly be subjected to censure in this Assembly. I tended, in looking at this matter, to take the Government's response to the Estimates Committee in good faith. But, if Mrs Carnell continues with the line that we have heard tonight, then clearly there is no basis for having that good faith and the Assembly will have to take other action.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training and Minister for Children's and Youth Services) (3.18 am): Quite clearly, this Government has done something. After a lot of thought and discussion, because we did look at all the possibilities, including, Ms McRae, such things as mandating doctors - and the Chief Minister has indicated why that in itself was a problem - we came up with the regional approach. It is a very good, staged plan. Probably after the results for the first region - the Belconnen-Gungahlin region, which in terms of regions is about the best one to choose, because of the demographics and the homes there - are to hand, it will give us a very good idea of what increases we are likely to have to find extra money for; what other resources we need to put in; and what increase in the already high level of reporting we have. Hopefully, it will not be huge; but we will get a very good idea probably after the results for the first region are to hand.

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