Page 3021 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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This amendment seeks to articulate a broader role for the commissioner in identifying and reviewing issues affecting people with a disability, older people, carers and people who use community services beyond the narrow confines of a service system. For example, the commissioner could examine an issue such as sexual health and disability, encompassing but not restricted to the way that disability services provide support. The commissioner might examine research, community attitudes and individual testimony to review the extent to which people with a disability have age-appropriate opportunities for sexual development and information about sexual health. This might result in a report with recommendations across community education, school education and family support.

There are also circumstances where addressing vulnerability to human rights breaches for a particular group might lie in providing information and education to individuals independently of service systems or promoting participation in decision-making across service systems. The commissioner may determine that research is warranted to improve the extent to which education, information and advice are being provided effectively to particular groups such as people with an intellectual disability.

The proposed amendment does not make the commissioners responsible for the treatment of a particular group across all areas of community life or broaden their function to address every issue facing individuals who have a disability or use a community service. What it does do is allow the commissioner to look broadly at the priority issues and identify strategies across government and non-government sectors that could contribute to improvements.

It has to be remembered that just 53 per cent of people with a disability actually use the formal services. We do not believe that the broader amendment that we made earlier, which the government supported, will, alone, address our concerns to enable the commissioner, himself or herself, to investigate these things.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (11.52): As I indicated, the government proposes to support a number of Dr Foskey’s amendments today but will be opposing a similar number. Those that the government proposes to oppose include both amendments 3 and 4. There a also a number of other amendments that are of a similar order to amendments 3 and 4—in fact, amendments 5, 6, 7 and 9.

The government’s reasons for opposing those particular amendments are essentially the same; so I propose to address now, in fact, the government’s opposition to amendments 3 and 4. Also, my comments can be taken as applying to amendments 5, 6, 7 and 9. I will not repeat the comments when Dr Foskey progressively moves those additional amendments.

Amendments 3 and 6 add new subclauses to clauses 21 and 25, respectively. Those clauses provide for the disability and community services commissioner and the health services commissioner to exercise relevant functions on behalf of the human rights commission. The amendments would add additional functions that would belong to the commissioner rather than to the human rights commission.

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