Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1213 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
support and proper intervention can take place in the early developmental stages. Diagnosis services are fundamental, and the fact that, in December, we had the situation where 70 children with suspected developmental disorders were awaiting diagnosis, and that the waiting list had been closed, was deplorable. I encourage the government to pay special attention to ensuring that such a situation does not arise again.
I am also concerned that the report presents disturbing findings about the lack of sharing of information, deliberate or not, with parents and guardians. As Dr Kendrick stated in his evidence to the inquiry, "When families are asked to trust a system, where the system has not won their confidence, then they fear a reprisal." This is not a healthy or productive way for the system to operate. The situation must be rectified. It is totally contrary to the principles of openness, participation and inclusion. People throughout the system should be encouraged to exercise their right to participate. It is inexcusable for the system itself to discourage that participation.
Mr Speaker, I would like to conclude by stating that the way forward will not be facilitated if powerful figures close ranks against criticism, but by fostering a system-wide respect for the dignity and the rights of people with disabilities.
MS TUCKER (12.19): The Gallop report allowed attention to be given to the support needs of people with disabilities. While it did not look at all areas of support, it did allow the system to come under scrutiny in a way that has been needed for some time.
Regarding the inquiry process itself, I did question whether it was wise to appoint a judge to run an inquiry into disability support services, whether the legalistic approach likely to be taken by such a person would be appropriate, and whether there could be a focus on finding fault and guilty persons, as in a court, rather than finding ways forward for a complex and important social system. Let me hasten to add, though, that I do believe responsibility must be taken for the failure of a system and, in this particular situation, a critical system supporting vulnerable people. The buck does stop somewhere and that somewhere is with the ministers and senior officials charged with the responsibility of designing and managing the system.
On this issue of responsibility, the Gallop report did allege that there were guilty people, mainly senior bureaucrats. Notably, the minister seemed to escape the attention of the report. This is a serious oversight that needs to be corrected. If fairness is the intended result of the inquiry, then it has to be acknowledged that Michael Moore was the minister responsible at the time, and before him Kate Carnell-Gary Humphries very briefly in between.
As ministers for health, they were responsible for policy. The Chief Minister was responsible for the performance agreement of the chief executive officer and so was also responsible. Responsibility was, supposedly, taken: Mr Moore had a strategic plan developed in 1999, but there was no real implementation strategy, and there was no analysis of what it would take to reach the goals of that plan. There was no real leadership, and there was no real understanding of the cost of seeing that strategic plan through to fruition.