Page 3089 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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There are a number of other matters the community consultation considered which are not addressed by the government. There was a great deal of discussion about official visitors. In its submission, the Youth Coalition suggested that a community visitors program be established through the official visitors program. I look forward to the government’s response to this matter and hope that they take up the idea. There was also discussion regarding the potential for out-of-home care services to be accredited by the public advocate.

Another issue that requires the government’s attention is the lack of a robust appeal mechanism for decisions of the human rights commission. This is a concern that has been raised with my office by a broad range of stakeholders. I cannot hear proposed solutions. I am rapidly running out of time, but you can get the full text later if you want it.

On a positive note, the early appointment of the children and young people commissioner will allow for the consideration of the needs of children and young people to be considered during the process of establishing the human rights commission. We are very concerned that the human rights commission have a welcoming space for children and young people, because it is probably not appropriate that everyone share the same waiting room as needs would be different.

Lastly, to deal with the issue raised in the scrutiny report on this bill which identified the potential for conflicts of jurisdiction between the Ombudsman and the human rights commission: it is important to avoid this, and the solution proposed in the report whereby the Ombudsman is required to refer a matter to the commission if it is the more appropriate office to deal with a complain is the subject of my amendment.

MR SPEAKER: The member’s time has expired.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (5.38): I can continue Dr Foskey’s speech, to a degree, because I will be mainly dealing with the issue of the Ombudsman. So I am happy to put forward some of those points that have come out of the scrutiny report.

I think, in general, a lot of people in legal circles initially used to see the Ombudsman as a bit of a toothless tiger, but I think over the years that attitude has changed and we have seen, not just in legal circles but in the community generally, an acceptance that the Ombudsman performs a pretty important role. Even though it does not have enforcement powers as such, it plays an important role in investigating and highlighting areas of concern arising out of public administration. Of course, at times this makes governments uncomfortable; governments do not like scrutiny, especially if it shows up areas where they are not quite getting it right. Obviously, governments often resist and seek to limit some of that scrutiny. I think that might be part of what is happening here.

One of the points highlighted in the scrutiny report that Dr Foskey referred to is that the way the Ombudsman scheme is set up reduces jurisdictional complexity, thus making it easier for the ordinary person to use the scheme. The report goes on to say that qualification of this principle is, thus, to be avoided if possible. And this is exactly what this bill does. It does raise some concerns. The report talks about the potential for certain cases to fall between the cracks. I think that is the biggest concern that we would have.

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