Page 1508 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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I thank all of those in the community who have participated in consultation on the bill. I would particularly like to thank the justices of the Supreme Court and the territory’s magistrates for making the time to meet departmental officers. I also thank the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Richard Refshauge, the Victims of Crime Coordinator, Ms Robyn Holder, Mr Martin Hockridge of the Legal Aid Office and Ms Renuka Thilagaratnam of my department for their enormous contribution to the bill. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak) adjourned to the next sitting.

Human Rights Commission Bill 2005

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (11.55): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Human Rights Commission Bill will establish a new statutory authority to provide the ACT community with improved access to statutory oversight services. It carries out the commitment that my government made last year in the position paper The right system for rights protection. I released that paper in response to the report of the review of statutory oversight and community advocacy agencies conducted by the Foundation for Effective Markets and Governments, FEMAG. The review looked at a broad range of statutory oversight and community advocacy bodies, taking a holistic view of the system so that it could make recommendations on improvements to the system as a whole.

The FEMAG review report confirmed the need identified in the Reid review of ACT Health to consolidate the existing complaint bodies to ensure an optimum system for consumers and citizens and to allow flexibility in the use of resources. FEMAG noted that a series of small, stand-alone agencies will not be able to undertake the challenging tasks expected of them. The new structure established by this bill will establish a more integrated approach to statutory oversight and services improvement that will be more streamlined and accessible than currently.

The new Human Rights Commission will incorporate the statutory oversight functions of the current office of the Community Health Services Complaints Commissioner and the Human Rights Office. Both those offices have provided high-quality service to the Canberra community over a number of years. However, the creation of a new office that can accommodate all the functions of those offices will enable the sharing of resources and expertise as well as increasing consistency and improving coordination of the statutory oversight functions. Importantly, it will also provide a single access point for people who want to access a range of complaints resolution, service improvement and community education facilities.

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