Page 1108 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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The Canberra community has reason to be grateful for Ms McGregor’s tireless efforts on behalf of its most vulnerable members over nearly 13 years. We have been fortunate to have the services of a person whose long history of commitment to improving social conditions extends well back before she took on this challenging role on behalf of the ACT community.

The job of the Community Advocate is an extraordinarily difficult one. Ms McGregor has shown deep dedication to the cause of social justice in carrying out that job since it was established. I want to take this opportunity to express, on behalf of the government and the Canberra community, our sincere thanks for the work Ms McGregor has carried out over the past 13 years in protecting the rights of those who cannot protect themselves. She will leave a lasting legacy that future incumbents of the office will no doubt seek to emulate.

In relation to the advertisement of the Community Advocate position, the position was advertised in major newspapers including the Canberra Times and the Australian on Saturday, 12 March 2005. For this and other statutory offices the government wants to find the best available person for the job. Advertising for expressions of interest is part of that process. The functions of statutory officers are defined by the legislative framework for the position and so the structure of the position is public knowledge.

This government is committed to a process of selecting people for statutory positions that delivers the best outcome for the community. But it is ultimately the responsibility of government to make the decision about which appointment will achieve that. In some cases, the appointment of a person to a statutory position engages community and interest group sensitivities, and in this context it is appropriate for the government to make the final decision.

I am advised that, under the Community Advocate Act 1991, the Community Advocate is appointed by the executive. Accordingly, the appointment is not subject to the process that applies to ministerial appointments under the Legislation Act 2001 whereby proposed ministerial appointments are considered by an Assembly committee. I am advised that this form of appointment derives historically from the appointment process that applied to the youth advocate, a predecessor office to the Community Advocate, established under the Children’s Services Ordinance 1986, which provided for the youth advocate to be appointed by the Governor-General. Constitutionally, the ACT executive is the equivalent body to the Governor-General under the ACT constitutional framework and for this reason the commonwealth amended the ordinance before self-government day to pass this function to the ACT executive. The Community Advocate Act 1991 simply adopted this methodology.

With regard to the selection process for appointments and reappointments of commissioners and statutory office holders, it is worth noting that the executive appointments are treated differently under our law from ministerial appointments. Executive appointments are reserved for key judicial and other officers and such appointments are ordinarily reserved in this and other jurisdictions for detailed consideration of the executive—a consideration that often requires a merit-based selection process but which ultimately remains a matter for government. Ministerial

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