Page 99 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 7 December 2004

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I again thank Dr Foskey for bringing on this particular matter. In the last Assembly—she may not be aware of it—our former colleague Kerrie Tucker certainly made a lot of comments in relation to some of the problems we had in terms of reports not being passed on, the problems in relation to the Community Advocate, who plays a terribly important statutory role, and the problems that arose over a number of years in relation to acts not being complied with. I think it was probably a wake-up call for a lot of people that those things indeed happened over the course of the last 10 or 15 years in a number of areas. I hope that, with some of the improvements that have been made, fewer problems will now arise. It is terribly important that we are all vigilant in that regard because at the end of the day it is Canberra’s most vulnerable people who will benefit from good effective governance, be it through statutory oversight, be it through commissioners or be it just through a very competent public service that talks to each other and a government that actually is on top on things and running its bureaucracy properly.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.45): Mr Speaker, I thank Dr Foskey for bringing forward this matter of public importance today because support and services to Canberra’s most vulnerable people are, I hope, why we are all here. I think it is appropriate that on the first effective day of sitting of this Sixth Legislative Assembly we should spend some time and focus our attention on how we provide services and support to Canberra’s most vulnerable people.

As my colleague Mr Seselja said this morning, it is the mark of a civilised society how we protect and how we give succour to the people who are most vulnerable; the people who do not have their own voice; the people who do not know their way around the system; the people who do not have, for lack of education or lack of access or just lack of heart, the capacity to advocate on their own behalf. This is our role: to ensure that those people who cannot do it for themselves have the resources and the wherewithal to find justice and to find access to services and to support.

There has been a lot said about the value of reviewing the statutory oversight bodies and the importance of efficiency and ensuring that there are no overlaps. All of that sounds very good and, I suppose, as a bit of an economic rationalist, there are a lot of arguments in favour of making sure that there is efficiency and there is no overlap.

But the other part of me that subscribes to the principle of subsidiarity is cautious about the whole approach because, by bringing everything together in a sort of super organisation, yes, there is the efficiency of having all your office support being done by people who do office support; you may be able to have some economies of scale; and there may be the opportunities for people in one area to bounce off their issues and develop a better approach by virtue of their being closely associated, perhaps co-located, so that a lot of these statutory oversight bodies can benefit from the critical mass of being together and being closely associated.

But, at the same time, we need to be careful that, in creating a new, better, more efficient structure—it may be more efficient for the government or for the bureaucrats who do not want actually to experience the statutory oversight because sometimes it is inconvenient—we do not nobble the statutory overseers, because if we sort of say, “Let’s be all efficient and cut back resources in one area and there’s not the scope for research

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