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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 3291 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

the Parliamentary Counsel's Office, who is in the gallery. I congratulate Julie on the immense and difficult work that she has done for all of us in this chamber. Mr Speaker, I am certain that there are others who are equally deserving of congratulations. I apologise for not mentioning everybody, but there are other people who have worked particularly hard and given great assistance throughout the process for this Bill. Mr Speaker, I look forward to the passage of the amendments.

MR KAINE (4.05): Mr Speaker, the Minister for Education has brought the Children and Young People Bill before the Assembly for the best of reasons. I support those reasons and I support the Bill in principle. But I indicated to the Minister this morning that I would have some comments to make about his Bill and I will now launch into those.

My first comment is that it is a good thing that the Minister does not intend the Bill to be read by the people whose lives it sets out to regulate. The Bill is one of the most difficult pieces of legislation to read that I have seen for a long time. It reeks of political correctness. It is littered with abstruse expressions which may be stated with no less precision and a much higher readability score in half as many words of good, plain, clear, unambiguous English. It contains wonderful examples of bad grammar and there are some wonderful pieces of nonsense within its covers. I will come to some examples of each of those shortly.

I really feel deep sympathy for the people on whom this Bill imposes responsibilities - the police, the courts and the staff of welfare, child-care and health agencies to name but a few. The Bill is awash with instructions about the way all these categories of people and institutions are to discharge their responsibilities. You might believe, having read it, that it is a Bill that will create a new industry, that of protecting children and young people whose families cannot or will not care properly for them. I do not know that the Minister intended to turn that into an industry. The Bill will also create a new culture in which devotees will search their soul and offer up prayers for greater understanding of the differences between the myriad kinds of orders that may be made, of the rights and duties of parents and carers, and of the powers of the chief executive.

I do not say that these concepts are not within the ability of intelligent people to comprehend, but I do say that the Bill packages them in a web of caveats, cautions, options, exceptions and procedural niceties waiting to fatten the lawyers' purses from shepherding parents, children, carers and everybody else involved through the maze which the Bill is erecting. I think that we, as legislators, are at risk of allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed in situations such as the one into which this Bill puts us.

The Minister undoubtedly feels confident that no member of the Assembly will vote against the Bill because it declares and codifies the rights of children and young people, and he is probably right. But I hope that members will share my view that that codification could be better expressed than it is in this somewhat overweight Bill. It is

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