Page 3086 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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We believe that such a position, which is needlessly bureaucratic, will cut across already established positions such as the Ombudsman. In fact, it will specifically prevent the Ombudsman from undertaking specific investigations and handing them over to the new commissioner. That will inevitably lead to some investigations falling through the cracks—an issue of concern to the opposition. The bill makes a number of consequential amendments that will delete the word “community” and insert the word “public”. This bill is a rewrite of the Community Advocate legislation. The language and drafting style have been modernised and the name of the bill has been changed.

There are also some minor changes to the way in which delegations work. The real role of advocating for vulnerable children and young people rests with the Community Advocate and not with the children and young people commissioner. As my colleague Mrs Dunne pointed out, there is no need for this window-dressing legislation. This Human Rights Commission (Children and Young People Commissioner) Amendment Bill is just a cosmetic bill. I make the same points in relation to this bill that I made earlier in debate on the Human Rights Commission Bill. Whilst there is a need for a commissioner for the family we do not see a need for a mega corporation that will effectively cost an additional $2 million or so.

We therefore do not see any need for a Human Rights Act. I have already indicated that there are some problems in relation to that issue. It is obvious that this legislation will become law. It is obvious also that there will be further problems along the way. I hope this government will seek to rectify those problems. If the government and Dr Foskey do nothing to rectify those problems the opposition will. I reiterate the position of members of the Liberal Party. For the reasons I have given we are against a human rights act and anything that flows from it. There are a few loopholes in this legislation, which the opposition will watch carefully. If we are to have legislation such as this the government should ensure that it works properly.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.27): I am going to begin with the Public Advocate Bill, as it is the easier of the two. I am going to support the bill, despite its being my personal preference that we retain the title “Community Advocate” rather than “public advocate.” I accept that my personal preference is not, at the end of the day, a substantial objection; and, in the interests of consistency, I will refer to the Community Advocate as the public advocate in my speech in anticipation of this bill’s being agreed to.

I am concerned about the issue raised in the scrutiny report that the protection of people providing information to the public advocate in clause 15 may interfere with the privacy of a third person and conflict with the section 12 of the Human Rights Act in relation to privacy and reputation. I do not think that there is a quick fix to this issue, and I agree with the analysis in the scrutiny report that the fact that the section is in the Children and Young Persons Act is not adequate justification.

I suggest that the government undertake consultation with relevant stakeholders and experts to review alternative options for protecting informants while also protecting the privacy of third persons. I also suggest that this matter be monitored by both the public advocate and the human rights commissioner on an ongoing basis.

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