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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 August 2005) . . Page.. 3084 ..

Ombudsman’s lack of power to do anything other than make a recommendation that the agency alter its decision in some way. While this restriction on power stands in contrast to the powers of a court or tribunal to revoke or change agency decisions, the Ombudsman provides an inexpensive means of seeking redress for an ordinary person who cannot afford the cost, in money and time, of resorting to courts or administrative tribunals.

One virtue of the Ombudsman’s scheme is the fact that the broad grant of jurisdiction to the Ombudsman in section 5 (1) (a) of the act avoids the legal complexity that arises out of grants and jurisdictions to courts and tribunals. An ombudsman’s office is founded on the basic principle that its jurisdiction should extend to investigation of complaints against all agencies of the executive and administrative branches of government—excluding the actions of ministers who are seen as being responsible to the legislature—and of the court so far as it concerns the exercise of their judicial functions.

If this principle in the Ombudsman’s scheme reduces jurisdictional complexity to a minimum it would make it easier for ordinary people to use the scheme. Furthermore, it would provide an even application of good administrative principles across the administrative arms of government. A qualification of this principle is to be avoided if possible. I note that this is a fairly limited qualification of what the government is doing. Nevertheless it is a qualification that should be avoided if at all possible. After consultation with parliamentary counsel I believe that to be the best way to ensure the Ombudsman continues to be properly involved in every aspect. My amendment will simply delete that part of the act.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (5.19): The government has decided not to support this amendment. The effect of the amendment, as explained by Mr Stefaniak, is to remove from the bill all the amendments to the Ombudsman Act. These consequential amendments flow from the establishment of the Human Rights Commission and the creation of the Health Services Commissioner in place of the Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner. These amendments are essential in order that the Ombudsman Act continues to operate consistently with existing provisions and other legislation and does not contain redundant references.

In addition, the provisions in the bill will amend the Ombudsman Act to enable the Ombudsman to review the administrative processes of the Human Rights Commission. The government submits that this extremely important provision will ensure that the administrative processes within the Human Rights Commission are appropriate and timely. Important additional protection for complainants would be removed if the changes provided for in this bill did not go ahead. Because of the importance of these amendments to the Ombudsman Act the government cannot support Mr Stefaniak's amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Bill, as a whole, agreed to.

Bill agreed to.

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