Page 2649 - Week 08 - Friday, 1 July 2005

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Friday, 1 July 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 9.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Children and Young People Amendment Bill 2005

Debate resumed from 21 June 2005, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (9.32): The opposition will be supporting this bill. As the minister pointed out in her tabling speech, this bill is purely mechanical—to ensure that all the approvals for the operation of a facility under the Children and Young People Act are up to date and all the ts are crossed, essentially. My office sought and obtained a briefing, and I thank the minister’s office for a comprehensive briefing. Our only reservation was that there may have been some outstanding court matter that may have been affected by any changes to approvals. We have been assured that there are no outstanding court matters and, as a result, we will be supporting the bill.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (9.33): I support this bill as well. I recognise the government’s need to fill in the legal holes that have been found around the validity of attendance, shelter, institution and detention centres, official visitors to these centres and the related standing orders. I am also aware that it is against common law rights to legislate retrospectively, as it may unfairly impact on ACT citizens who thought they had been operating in a legal manner. I do not believe that concern arises in this case as, firstly, the people who might be affected by the proposed legislation have been operating under the assumption that this legislation is already in place and, secondly, there is a safety clause under 418 (3) that prevents retrospective statutory instruments from allowing prejudicial provisions in relation to those affected.

The body most affected by this retrospective legislation is the ACT government. It will now legally have responsibility for these centres and the standing orders operating in relation to them. If legal cases were to come up with regard to the centres and the standing orders once this bill is passed, action would have to be taken against the ACT government rather than individual staff members who implemented what they thought to be legal actions. Although we may or may not be comfortable with the notion of retrospectively legalising a range of standing orders which we have not seen, it would seem to be the more responsible action, to give Quamby and the government the legal protection that we and they presumed was already in place. The more interesting part of the process now is the follow up, which includes a collation of the orders and procedures and the subsequent auditing of them by the human rights commissioner.

On a related matter, we had a motion in the Assembly from Mr Seselja this week centred upon the formation of a working group to evaluate Quamby’s programs. In the context of that debate I received an informal agreement from the Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support to report to the Assembly on the work plan and outcomes from that group. I am using this speech to ask that the report be extended to include the human rights commissioner’s audit of the Quamby detention centre, the chief executive’s review

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