Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3301 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
request of various community groups which were concerned about substance abuse in the ACT and I was asked to chair that meeting. The theme of that meeting was that substance abuse affects all sections of our society.
Out of that meeting came a call for the setting up of a drugs task force. The idea was that it would be modelled on the poverty task force of the previous government, which had community ownership and had worked very well. As it turned out, the current Labor government did not want to have the task force based on that model and appointed a task force itself and basically ran it in that way. As far as I am aware from the feedback I have had, the process has been reasonable to this point in time, although I am not sure that it will be of the calibre of the poverty task force process. However, there has been a reasonable process up to this time. I have raised this motion because I am concerned about what is happening.
I understand that, basically, the minister is supportive of what I am doing today, except that he will seek to amend my motion to remove the timeframe. I do not have a problem with that. I know that it is a bit difficult for some people to debate this motion because the report in question is not available to MLAs, but I do not think that that should matter because it is more about the process than the content of the report itself.
The document is a product of the consultant engaged on behalf of the Minister for Health by the ACT alcohol and other drugs task force. The consultation process has been a major piece of work, the biggest piece of work for the task force. Around 3,000 people were surveyed. The process of developing and doing the survey took around 12 months and involved the members of the task force going out into their particular communities to survey opinions on the effectiveness of the alcohol and other drug services available and improvements that should be made. The task force had agreed on particular communities and groups of interest within the wider Canberra society and targeted those groups.
The consultation was designed to be good-quality feedback on the services and to feed into the new drug and alcohol strategy. It was obviously a large body of work as a lot of energy and effort went into gathering the information. Also, in this kind of constituent survey there is a level of trust on behalf of people surveyed that their voices will be heard. In cases where a member of the task force has passed on the survey and worked with the community, there is also an issue of credibility for them as individuals if the process is not good.
We know from people on the task force that there was disagreement about whether to release the report when it was produced and that the resistance to releasing the report was largely based on the fact that there were criticisms of certain services in that report. I have to make the point again that we cannot afford to allow cultures to become that defensive. We need to have a focus on service improvement which sees complaints as information. That is something that comes up again and again in this place in debate. It is not just about the public sector; it is also about non-government providers and community providers. I think there is really quite a lot of work to be done.
In lots of ways, I do not blame service providers for this culture. I think that in a way there has never been a proper structure on which to base complaints that do work with a service improvement focus. This government, to its credit, is doing work on that as I speak. It has employed a consultancy to review most of the complaints mechanisms and