Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 August 2005) . . Page.. 3018 ..
public awareness, conducting and monitoring research, making recommendations and promoting the participation of individuals in decisions that affect their lives.
Lastly, I would like to point out that we did not pull this amendment out of thin air. We looked at what people have said about the proposed human rights commission and looked at the functions of comparable statutory bodies interstate. I would like to be able to participate in a consultative process on the functions of the commission but, in the absence of this, we have developed an amendment that we see as consistent with the views of various stakeholders. I believe that this adds to the potential effectiveness of the legislation, and I would hope that it has tripartisan support.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (11.25): I will make some preliminary remarks before addressing the amendment specifically. Let me say that the government is sympathetic to Dr Foskey’s concerns about statutory oversight agencies and respects her intention of moving all of the amendments that she proposes to move today.
The introduction of the Human Rights Commission Bill represented the final stage in a lengthy process of policy development by the government in creating a new way of providing statutory oversight and complaint-resolution services. The government had to make choices between a number of different models. Each model has some good points and some weaknesses. In the end, a decision had to be made about the model that we thought would best accommodate all the outcomes that stakeholders said they wanted and that would, at the same time, be practical to operate within the context of the government agency.
The government has chosen to establish a new statutory body and to give that body a wide range of statutory oversight, community education and complaints resolution functions. Specialist commissioners will be members of that new body so that it will have the necessary expertise to carry out its functions. Funds will be allocated to the new commission to enable it to operate and to carry out its functions. Working together, the members of the new human rights commission will decide how best to use those funds to fulfil the statutory responsibilities placed on it.
Dr Foskey has proposed some changes that are aimed at greater autonomy for the commissioners. We will get to those directly. I just give some indication of the government’s broad thinking, and that is that we feel, unfortunately, that these amendments will not operate effectively within the legal structure created by the Human Rights Commission Bill.
Since the specialist commissioners must carry out functions on behalf of the human rights commission of which they are not members, they cannot, at the same time, separate themselves from it. For that reason, the government will oppose those of Dr Foskey’s amendments that cannot operate consistently, in our view, with the other provisions of the bill.
To the specific amendment that we are dealing with, amendment No 1: it includes a proposed new subsection in the objects clause. While I do not think that it necessarily adds significantly to the grounds covered by the objects already set out in the bill, I agree