Page 4512 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 18 October 2011

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What we are seeing across the chamber and with the Greens is a government that is in crisis. John Hargreaves asked what would be the consequence of a vote of no confidence and what is the positive outcome. The positive outcome we seek is putting a minister into the position who is competent and who will provide honest and accountable advice rather than trying to hide from the realities of the situation.

The problem Katy Gallagher has is that she has already expressed no confidence in her backbench. The fact that she is running with four ministers rather than five tells us she has already expressed a lack of confidence in John Hargreaves, Mary Porter and Chris Bourke. I say to John Hargreaves and members of the Labor Party that their support of this minister is untenable. The only reason the government continues to support this minister and the only reason that the Greens continue to is that there are simply no other options.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12.12): This is a momentous day, and all of my colleagues have highlighted the seriousness of the matters that we have before us. As Mr Seselja said, nothing could be more serious than putting our vulnerable children in harm’s way. It was a pretty feeble attempt, really, by Ms Burch and Ms Gallagher to defend her position. The attempt is to deflect and say, “Oh, Mrs Dunne is criticising the bureaucrats.” Well, I am reflecting what the Public Advocate said. The Public Advocate, in her letter of commission to the chief executive, says:

I present to you an Interim Report as stage one of a Review conducted by the Public Advocate of ACT with respect to the circumstances … The findings and recommendations highlight the deficiencies in the systems and the application of due processes by your Directorate. This confirms the need to immediately conduct the second stage of the Review …

After a three-week inquiry that was scrabbled together with very few resources and with very little time, the Public Advocate could uncover in a very limited look at cases 24 breaches of the Children and Young People Act. It is called the care and protection service, and on 24 occasions the service charged with the care and protection of our vulnerable children broke the law and, by the admission of the Public Advocate, increased the trauma and increased the abuse experienced by already traumatised, vulnerable, abused children. These are the actions of the care and protection service, and Minister Burch is the minister responsible for the care and protection service.

It is interesting to listen to what Ms Hunter had to say on behalf of the Greens. Ms Hunter set out perfectly and repeated the Liberal Party’s case against Ms Burch. She agreed that the law had been broken and that this was unforgivable. But somehow we get to the weasel words of the modern notion of ministerial responsibility—she could not possibly be held responsible. The minister is hoist on her own petard. She admitted that in July she was told, and she did nothing about it except to seek assurances that the placements met our standards. We know that the placements could not meet our standards—not even Joy Burch’s standards—because they broke the law. This is a symptom of a dysfunctional system that has at its head Joy Burch, the minister responsible for the care and protection system of our vulnerable children.

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