Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 29 March 2011) . . Page.. 930 ..
based approvals to role-based approvals and the link between imprisonments and strict liability offences.
There is one specific section of the bill that some people may find contentious, in that when ORS are conducting background checks they will be able to look at an applicant’s spent convictions and previous charges. This is an issue Mrs Dunne has already raised. It is a principle of law and human rights that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and to take into consideration those charges for which a person has not been proven guilty is a difficult task. However, we recognise that, given the nature of some of the charges that must be considered and their sometimes low level of success rates in the courts, these factors may need to be taken into consideration when checking a person’s history.
I have reflected on the same request that came with the national registration and accreditation scheme for health professionals, and to which I also agreed, in order to pursue and place at prominence the human rights of vulnerable people. With regard to resourcing, I am concerned about whether ORS will be able to handle the workload of running the background checking system in an efficient and effective manner. The unit have often been under-resourced in the past, and the background checks will apply to a large proportion of the population. It will have a significant impact on their workload, we believe. This will be a critical element of any review that is to take place in the future.
I appreciate that the government is to employ an education officer who will raise awareness about the scheme, but I also note that the Mental Health Community Coalition and the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association have put in a budget submission requesting financial assistance to employ someone who can assist people from their sector with making applications, as some will find it quite a confronting and difficult process. I would encourage the government to seriously consider this budget submission.
The Greens have consistently stated their support for the principle behind the bill. However, we have also been consistent in saying that we need to see the details behind the bill before agreeing to pass it in full. We have made consistent requests to the government to have the regulations tabled when the bill was debated. We are not getting the regulations, but we have been provided with the draft risk assessment guidelines. We also made it clear that we wanted a final version of these guidelines before agreeing to the bill. We still have a draft version of these guidelines, which we did not get until late afternoon on Thursday. In the absence of the regulations, these guidelines were essential because, as I have already said, the devil is in the detail. There are still many issues to work through on these guidelines and we should not be proceeding to the detail of this bill without those guidelines being finalised.
As I have already mentioned, to get embargoed amendments which we cannot consult with the community sector on and be expected to pass these is not an acceptable way to deal with it. We recognise there is support in the community sector for this bill, which is why we are agreeing to it in principle today. We also recognise that the mental health and drug and alcohol sector are a significant part of the community sector and provide vital work and that their concerns should be properly addressed.