Page 3090 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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It talks about “words of exclusion” and “the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction may be wider than the words of inclusion of the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Commission”. That is a real concern. I think it should be a concern to the government that by, moving these changes and excluding the Ombudsman from certain areas of investigation, there may be cases that fall between the cracks, so I would caution the government.

Mr Stefaniak will be moving an amendment later. I have not seen Dr Foskey’s amendment yet, but I would obviously be supporting Mr Stefaniak’s amendment in that it will hopefully avoid some of those cases that this scrutiny of bills report has referred to. I think they are legitimate concerns.

Given that the Ombudsman provides a very simple way of investigating complaints—there are no jurisdictional concerns because it is able to investigate any area of public administration—I would put it to the house that this could be dangerous; that there could be areas that fall between the cracks. Given that the government is going to use its numbers to get this through, I would caution the government to look at this closely and, if there are areas that cannot be investigated because of these amendments, to reconsider them.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.41), in reply: The legislation we are considering today creates a children and young people commissioner of the ACT. The position will be unique in Australia, as no other jurisdiction has human rights legislation to provide for protecting, promoting and respecting children and young people. The bill is a further step in the government’s delivery of its vision for children and young people in the ACT.

The bill amends the human rights commission legislation that has just been passed and establishes the role of the children and young people commissioner within the human rights commission. Complementing its introduction is the Public Advocate Bill 2005.

The ACT needs the children and young people commissioner. Children and young people represent around a quarter of the ACT population and need special protection. Their dependence and developmental state make them particularly vulnerable as they are more affected than adults by the conditions in which they live, such as poverty and poor housing. They have limited economic or social power, no right to vote and limited influence on the choice or composition of bodies responsible for decision-making.

The establishment of a commissioner acknowledges the importance of supporting and respecting these members of the community and working to address their unique needs. The establishment of a commissioner implements important human rights commitments by putting into practice article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory.

The establishment of a commissioner also supports section 11 (2) of the Human Rights Act 2004, which states:

Every child has the right to the protection needed by the child because of being a child, without distinction or discrimination of any kind.

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