Page 3011 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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impartial manner. I urge the government to consider this in more detail and perhaps facilitate the development of a memorandum of understanding between the commission and community-based services that would allow independent assistance to be provided. Those working specifically in the area of discrimination law have raised a number of more specific issues relating to how matters proceed to the discrimination tribunal. I urge the government to examine these issues closely and to take appropriate steps to protect the integrity of the discrimination complaints process within the broader regime.

We circulated our amendments some time back to both Labor and Liberal members of the Assembly. I am very disappointed that the Liberal opposition has not only not got back to us as to their attitude to our amendments but also they have only just circulated some amendments which we have not had time to consider. I do not believe those amendments will be given the consideration they are no doubt due by any member of the Assembly, because we have not had time to look at them and talk with the movers about them. In making that comment, I look forward to speaking to the amendments very soon.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (11.02), in reply: I will close the debate. Last year the government made clear its commitment to establish a unified statutory oversight body to improve efficiency and accessibility of services. This bill that we are discussing today carries out that commitment.

The government arrived at a decision to create this new commission after very careful consideration. This policy was developed in response to a number of reviews over several years in which considerable consultation was undertaken with community and stakeholder groups. The government position paper; The right system for rights protection, which I released in August 2004, in response to the report of the review of the statutory oversight and community advocacy agencies conducted by the Foundation for Effective Markets and Governance (FEMAG), set out the policies we had developed as a result of the work done in that review. 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.

While some people have expressed concern about the changes the bill will make to the statutory oversight process in a number of areas, I believe that much of that concern is due simply to the uncertainty that change of any kind brings. We know from the reports of FEMAG and the Reid review, as well as earlier inquiries, that the statutory oversight system in the ACT to date has been far from perfect, despite the exemplary service and hard work by many individual officeholders. In particular, I think we need to respond to the comment in the Reid report, endorsed in the FEMAG report, that in the ACT small, standalone, oversight agencies cannot hope to achieve all that is expected of them.

The new structure established by this bill will create an integrated approach to statutory oversight and services improvement. They will be more streamlined and accessible than currently. It will provide administrative support for a series of specialist commissioners who will be enabled and encouraged to work together to provide an integrated statutory oversight facility.

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