Page 1564 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 31 March 2009

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Children—care and protection

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Children and Young People. Minister, in today’s edition of the Canberra Times, you were quoted as saying that the British workers recruited to care and protection agencies were better qualified than local workers. In the same story, the former minister, Ms Gallagher, was quoted as saying that the British workers were recruited because “it was impossible to find enough child protection workers in Australia”. Minister, who is right—you or Ms Gallagher?

MR BARR: I do not believe that the two statements are in any way exclusive. The government’s position simply is that we hire the best available care and protection workers. We do not have a nationality preference. We do not seek to write into our approach to recruitment that someone must be of a particular nationality in order to be considered for employment. We are interested in the best care and protection workers. The 1,200 children and young people who are served by the office of children and youth are our number one priority, as they should be. Our concern, our primary concern, is to ensure that we recruit the best possible care and protection workers. It is a merit based process and people should not be excluded on the basis of their nationality.

MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, a supplementary question?

MRS DUNNE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, if it is so hard to find Australian care and protection workers, why did you get rid of the ones that we already have?

MR BARR: The government has not got rid of any workers. No-one has been retrenched. Temporary contracts that were put in place while we went about a broad ranging recruitment strategy—there were temporary contracts put in place—have expired and new staff have been recruited. We are now at our full complement of care and protection workers. That is important for the 1,200 kids who rely on the quality care and protection workers in this territory.

Alexander Maconochie Centre

MS BURCH: My question is to the Minister for Corrections. Could the minister please give the Assembly an update on the Alexander Maconochie Centre?

MR HARGREAVES: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I invite Mr Hanson to pick up his pencil and start taking notes. He is going to love this—not a lot, but he is going to love it.

It is heartening that the first prisoners were transported to the Alexander Maconochie Centre yesterday, a facility that I note the ACT Liberal opposition never supported despite the draconian conditions of the Belconnen Remand Centre.

Mr Hanson: It is you who kept them there for a year longer than they needed to be.

MR HARGREAVES: Oh, they have started. Thirty seconds.

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