Page 2518 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 1 July 2008

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Clause 738 agreed to.

Clause 739 agreed to.

Clause 740.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (5.45): I move amendment No 38 circulated in my name [see schedule 2 at page 2545].

The scrutiny of bills committee report queried whether the vagueness of the concept of unreasonable discipline in clause 740 meant that it is not compatible with the Human Rights Act 2004. To address these comments the government amendment creates a non-exhaustive definition of “unreasonable discipline”. It includes using any form of physical punishment and any form of behaviour management strategy likely to cause emotional or physical harm to the child. Examples are included of behaviours considered to be within the meaning of unreasonable discipline.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (5.47): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name to Ms Gallagher’s proposed amendment No 38 [see schedule 3 at page 2552].

I have spoken on some of the matters in this bill which I believe are important to ensuring that children are protected from abuse and neglect. However, I would also like to speak about my concerns about one aspect of the bill which has led me to propose an amendment.

I should say that I am always a little bit sceptical whenever a bill of this size is introduced to the Assembly dealing with disparate matters that are within the same general class of law, and I think Mrs Dunne alluded to this a while back. The bill in question deals with many different subjects under this broad subject matter. Like others in this place I have heard the legislative horror stories from the US where strange policies and spending commitments are attached as riders to bills which they really have nothing to do with and it all gets passed as a big package deal.

I am glad in this instance that the subjects covered by the bill are all within the general category of issues relating to children and young people. Nevertheless, there is still a danger that we package-deal some good provisions on one matter with some more questionable provisions on another tenuously related subject matter. This means that we must analyse each of the aspects of the bill very carefully.

My main concern with this bill relates to the provisions relating to childcare. The government’s amendment seeks to amend clause 740 of the Children and Young People Bill, which makes it an offence punishable by imprisonment for a childcare worker to use unreasonable discipline on a child in their care. Previously the term “unreasonable discipline” was left undefined; hence it was for the courts to decide the standards of reasonableness within the context of the offence provision. However, the government’s amendment seeks to define unreasonable discipline so widely as to include even yelling at a child as an imprisonment offence.

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