Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 3299 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
I read in the Bill about family conferencing. That is fine; it looks good to me. But I believe that it happens now. Surely officers counsel families. That must happen. It is the nature of the job, is it not, that they be counselling families? Or do we simply remove children and allow to happen what happened? To the best of my knowledge, I am presenting a fair picture. Because of privacy considerations it is difficult; but, on information I have been given, I have no reason to believe that the family were such as to warrant having imposed upon them such a drastic removal of their children. I have no reason to believe that that was sufficient to remove their children.
I raise that because it remains a concern for me and because I am impressed with the provisions in the Bill about general objects and general principles. They read well to me. It is good to see in a Bill a continuing process whereby we look at principles and objectives. I like seeing them in the Bill, and they are fine.
The Opposition supports the Bill. Despite Mr Kaine's concerns about language or, should I say, notwithstanding Mr Kaine's references to the language of the Bill, we support it. I know that the difficulties will continue. The measures may be there, but the implementation of those measures is another matter and a difficult matter, as I have indicated. I acknowledge the long period of discussion that went on until as late as last evening when we sat around a table and discussed late amendments. The discussion papers were fine documents that went out some two years ago, I think. I have looked at those discussion papers and seen how they have progressed into the Bill.
I like the new concepts about parental responsibility, which replace some of the old-fashioned notions. I like the idea of family conferencing, which is good. I hope it happens not just because there is legislation there. I hope it happens as a matter of course where the circumstances require it.
Ms Tucker has understandable concerns about therapeutic protection laws. I think she is right. With a couple of exceptions, I find, as I move around, that community agencies are being heavily squeezed for two reasons. Agencies are being squeezed under the purchaser-provider arrangements. Efficiency is the word. I am all for efficiency, but we know what the word "efficiency" means very often.
Also, notwithstanding the Minister's answer to a question earlier today, the implementation of the SACS award is presenting great problems. Staffing costs are increasing and, for the most part, agencies have been told to cover them. As Ms Tucker points out, if they have children coming to them under therapeutic protection orders requiring a higher level of counselling, assistance or programming, some of these agencies may not be confident about their capacity to handle them as well as they should. They know about the squeeze they have had in the last few years and they are not sure that they can see there a sympathetic government that is willing to provide the resources that they think are necessary.