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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 958 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

be said for all Australian parliaments. Of course, it is serious and all members, including Mr Cornwell, have always taken it seriously.

I appreciate the personal statements made by Ms Tucker in her article yesterday. It takes great courage to speak publicly about such personal experience, and I truly feel deeply for her. I agree with her comment that people need to discuss sexual abuse and violence openly. I believe that Mr Cornwell's letter endorses that belief.

The assumptions made by this motion are simply unfounded and, as such, the motion is unworthy of support.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections) (6.03): I did not intend to inject myself into this debate, but I want to pick up on a couple of things that have been said. It may well be unfortunate that the article in the paper cast Mr Cornwell in a light that is consistent with the Right, conservative image that is his-an image that he acknowledges from time to time and in fact exhibits in his pride in the Greg awards.

The only question I would ask this place and ask Mr Cornwell through you, Mr Speaker, is: where is the public denial? Where is the application for correction? Where is the written qualification? It was only when this motion hit the notice paper that quite tortuous qualifications were made by Mr Cornwell and Mrs Cross.

MS DUNDAS (6.04): I rise to add the support of the Australian Democrats for this motion. The protection of children and young people from abuse and neglect is one issue I stand up and support. In fact, in my first speech in this place I stated that one of my goals would be to establish a commissioner for children and young people. Both New South Wales and Queensland have commissioners for children and young people, as do other jurisdictions worldwide, particularly the United Kingdom and other countries of Europe. A commission would reject the old notion that children should be seen but not heard. In stark contrast to this old notion, I believe that children should be seen and heard and believed.

For far too long in our society the crime of child abuse and neglect has gone on within families and community organisations, hidden from the public eye. Victims have been too ashamed to speak up. Governments and government departments have been too slow to act on the cries of help from our children. Many people do not want to believe that it could happen in their family and to their children, and this denial denies the children the protection they deserve.

If a child called 000 to report a fire, one would hope that the fire brigade would respond and not wait for the second call. But that is often not the case when a child reports abuse. They wait for the second call, or the third, or the fourth.

It is only by believing children when they speak, by arming them with the tools to speak up and by teaching them protective behaviours that we will start to curb the problem that is child abuse. The scourge of child abuse would be stopped by tackling the problem in a threefold process: education, cure and legislation.

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