Page 1109 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005
appointments, which may not be exposed to the same rigorous process, are exposed to discussions with the appropriate committee of the Assembly.
The processes under the two appointment streams should not be confused. They are fundamentally different. Having gone through the process outlined in relation to the incoming Community Advocate, under the law the executive is then required to make a decision. Under the law as presently cast, the executive cannot fetter its responsibility to make this decision by applying a process applicable to a different class of appointment.
I would also like to note that the government’s position in no way departs from convention in either the ACT or other Australian jurisdictions. Having said that, the government will support the amended motion.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.16): The opposition, too, will be supporting the amended motion. Indeed, it is probably a timely motion. It does three things: first, it acknowledges the invaluable contribution to the territory of our outgoing Community Advocate. Then there are two other things the motion does, and I will talk to them seriatim.
The position of Community Advocate is a very difficult job. As a result of the efforts of Heather McGregor, I think everyone in this Assembly has probably a much greater awareness of what the office does, the responsibilities of everyone—including, obviously, the relevant agencies in government—and the fact that there have been some significant improvements made. That is a great credit to her.
During the legal affairs committee hearings into the annual reports last Friday, I asked the Community Advocate about a number of comments she had made in the 2003-04 report. She had highlighted, on pages 23 to about 47, some ongoing concerns she still had that would raise significant questions as to whether the rights of people who cannot defend themselves, who cannot speak for themselves, are being properly adhered to. In fact, in most instances significant improvements had been made literally probably only about over the last eight or so months. That is indeed pleasing and I certainly—I am sure Dr Foskey does, too, as a member of the committee—look forward to seeing what the 2004-05 report brings, because at this stage it looks like it is on track to have some significant improvements. I do not think that would have happened but for some of the efforts made by the Community Advocate.
Twelve and a half years is a very long time. On a personal note, I have had a number of dealings over the years with the Community Advocate. I always found her a very sincere person to deal with, a person who really did have at heart the very best interests of the people she was bound to protect. In 2001 I had some conversations with her; she came to me about some concerns in relation, I think, to some aspects of the Gallop inquiry and we certainly had a very full, a very frank discussion about that and I certainly appreciated her coming to me, then as Attorney-General, in relation to some of those issues. I would urge the minister—all ministers, not just this one, not just Ms Gallagher—and the government, to ensure that they listen to the Community Advocate, whoever gets the job, and to ensure that their departments listen to the Community Advocate and the Office of the Community Advocate and indeed, if they are not doing so already, that they initiate regular contact with that office, just to make sure