Page 1510 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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complaints. The terms used are more modern, broader and more flexible in order to ensure the commission’s capacity to approach each matter in the most appropriate fashion.

As well as taking care of day-to-day administration of the Human Rights Commission, the president will oversee conciliation of complaints on behalf of the commission. After consideration of the complaint, a commissioner will be able to refer it to conciliation if it seems that issues may be able to be resolved in that way.

This bill preserves the division between investigation of complaints and conciliation of them that currently exists in relation to community and health services complaints. This allows parties to freely discuss issues between them and conciliation without feeling the conciliator would have a role in making decisions about the final report on the complaint. The president will not have a role in investigating complaints.

The Human Rights Commission will have broad powers to initiate its own investigations into matters of concern. Reports will be able to be made to entities or office-holders that the commission considers could appropriately receive them. Although the commission will be within the Attorney-General’s portfolio, I would expect the specialist commissioners to have regular discussions with the ministers and departments responsible for government activity within their specialist areas.

The Human Rights Commission will be required to act promptly and efficiently. This bill ensures that complainants will be kept up-to-date on the progress of consideration of their complaints. People who have difficulty in putting a complaint in writing will be able to get assistance to do so. There is a provision for complaints to be made on behalf of people who are unable to take action on their own. In order to protect complainants, a provision making victimisation an offence has been included in the bill.

The bill contains provisions representing the culmination of a number of years of reviews looking at the statutory oversight agencies in the ACT. I believe that the new structure that it establishes will deliver an improved service to vulnerable members of the community as well as to those who simply want to see better services and a greater awareness of the way human rights are relevant to our everyday lives. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

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

Human Rights Commission Legislation Amendment 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) (12.03): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

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