Page 574 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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and should be safeguarded; others, as this bill identifies, have a potentially harmful ability to rebound on people. So we accept that there is a need to protect the identity of persons making child protection reports.

However, I am going to seek leave to have the discussion adjourned to allow time for full consideration of the amendment, particularly as we have not yet seen the government’s legal advice on it. While we accept the proposed intention of the bill, it is a complex area of law and it requires compliance with the principles and practices outlined in the federal Privacy Act as well as special amendments covering the health service providers. It is a very complex issue and one that deserves our full attention, particularly in relation to the complex relationships between the rights of individuals to privacy and the interests of individuals and the need to protect children from harm.

We would hope that the introduction and quick passing of bills within a matter of two days does not become a pattern of this Assembly. We feel strongly that careful consideration and due process should be afforded for each new piece of legislation. I seek leave to move a motion to adjourn discussion on this matter.

Leave not granted.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (12.21), in reply: I thank members for their support. Again, it is not desirable to have legislation introduced on Tuesday and debated on Thursday but this matter has come to our attention through some work that the Department of Health has been doing and it is very important that we move on this as quickly as possible.

This bill seeks to amend the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1997, which gives protection to the identity of persons making reports to care and protection services under the Children and Young People Act. Anything that improves the safety of our children, however small, is a step in the right direction and consistent with the approach that this government has taken in the matter of child protection.

As members may be aware, a range of important and collaborative pieces of work have been undertaken in the last 12 months to improve the ACT’s approach to child protection. Of particular importance has been the development of a memorandum of understanding between ACT Health and the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support. The MOU, which was signed by chief executives this month, sets out procedures by which these two government agencies should deal with each other in the matter of child protection. As members will appreciate, the relationships between these two agencies are complex, and the MOU will assist to ensure that procedural and administrative matters do not impede the ACT child protection system in any way. This MOU will be overseen by a management committee of senior executives, who will report regularly to the chief executives on the implementation of the MOU.

The ACT Health Child Protection Advisory Committee is another example of the work that has been undertaken collaboratively across government. This committee includes senior clinicians from ACT Health and representatives from the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support, the Division of General Practice and the Australian Federal Police. It was this committee that first identified the anomaly that led to this amendment

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