Page 1107 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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also to truly stand in the shoes of marginalised and disadvantaged people without feeling some of their pain. Sometimes it is important for a fresh approach to be brought to bear on somewhat difficult and intransigent issues. Sometimes a statutory office holder will have made so many enemies in the course of fearlessly carrying out their duties and functions that a new person will be needed to facilitate a more cooperative approach. The roles of statutory office holders are so important that these matters should be considered whenever a contract falls due for renewal.

The best person for the position five years ago may not necessarily be the best person for the position today. This does not mean that the existing office holder should not be re-appointed. In many cases the knowledge, experience and respect they have gained while in office will make them the logical choice in a merit-based process. Our argument is simply that no one person should be regarded as owning the statutory office.

The only real issue, then, is whether the cost of undertaking this process is warranted in all the circumstances. Not all re-appointment processes need to involve nationwide advertising and executive recruitment companies. Depending on the nature of the office being filled, a local advertising campaign may be entirely appropriate, for example, where it is clear that the ACT contains a range of people who might be reasonable contenders for the position or where it is unlikely that a broader campaign would yield a better applicant than the incumbent office holder. The process can remain merit-based while avoiding unnecessarily large expenditure.

I therefore urge the Assembly to support the integrity, independence and quality of our commissioners and statutory office holders by calling on the government to commit to a transparent, merit-based selection process for the appointment and re-appointment of all commissioners and statutory office-holders.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.11): I would like to thank Dr Foskey for moving this motion and I wholeheartedly support the formal recognition by this Assembly of the substantial achievements of the outgoing Community Advocate, Ms Heather McGregor.

Ms McGregor has served continuously in the position since being appointed as the inaugural Community Advocate in 1992, following the passage of the Community Advocate Act. The Community Advocate is an independent statutory office holder who has a legal mandate to promote and protect the interests of people who are not able to protect or represent their own interests. Ms McGregor has effectively and tirelessly carried out the demanding functions of this office, which include protecting and representing the rights and best interests of children and young people, and adults with decision-making disabilities or mental illness, who have had their rights and freedoms removed through a statutory intervention; the statutory oversight of the care and protection system; promoting the rights and best interests of children and young people in care and protection in youth justice systems; representing the best interests of adults with impaired decision making, mental illness or mental dysfunction before the Guardianship and Management of Property Tribunal, Mental Health Tribunal and all courts, and with bodies or agencies providing services; acting as guardian of last resort; acting as emergency guardian when urgent decisions or interventions are required; and representing the best interests of forensic clients.

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