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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (5 September) . . Page.. 3146 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I have also asked, as urgently as possible, for comprehensive legal advice on the position of buying out land where naturally occurring arsenic occurs, at least in part, on sites. As soon as that information is available I hope to be able to assure residents of those sites what the position is.

I have met on two occasions now with residents of the Watson sites and also on other occasions with the residents at Theodore and other sites that are contaminated. I will continue to engage in a dialogue with residents in those positions. I acknowledge completely the extremely unfortunate position those residents find themselves in. It is true that in many cases they cannot make realistic decisions about their future while a position from the Government is not yet available. I regret that, but I do not believe that it would be responsible for the Government, for example, simply to agree to buy out all sites concerned on the basis of whatever contamination might be found on the site or the origin of the contamination; nor would it be responsible, as I have been urged, simply to clear all sites by giving them a clean bill of health, indicating that there is no level of concern about the contamination on these sites. However, Mr Speaker, I can assure the Assembly that the Government will move as quickly as possible to form a view that is responsible and in the interests of the broader community.

Sitting suspended from 12.35 to 2.30 pm


Child Abuse

MR WHITECROSS: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mr Stefaniak in his capacity as Minister for Children's and Youth Services. Minister, in answer to my question on 29 August you said that, if there was an increase in the incidence of reported cases of child abuse following the introduction of mandatory reporting, you would assess the need for resources. Given that there has been an increase in phone calls reporting alleged child abuse in this week's Operation Paradox, will you be providing additional resources to investigate these complaints?

MR STEFANIAK: I thank the member for the question. One would naturally expect, Mr Whitecross, during our Operation Paradox, an increase in incidents reported. What the Government is doing in a coordinated way is looking at the incidence of reporting as a result of our training of the trainers and the gradual introduction of training in all areas of Canberra, so that we can properly assess what additional resources are needed. One of the areas, of course, where there is a concurrent need, obviously, for an increase in resources as a result of such things as mandatory reporting of incidents of child abuse is in terms of having proper places for children who cannot stay in a family situation as a result of the abuse. I think I indicated on the last occasion that in the 1995-96 budget we were making available $228,000 additional in relation to payments to foster carers and for foster carers in the ACT. In relation to any concurrent increase in the incidence of reporting of child abuse, that is something the Government is monitoring. If need be, during the financial year, we will make adjustments accordingly as a result of need.

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