Page 4663 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 19 October 2011

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Children and young people—care and protection

MR HANSON: My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, the ACT Public Advocate, in her report on her review of the emergency response strategy for children in crisis in the ACT, released on Friday last week, found that the Community Services Directorate had breached the Children and Young People Act on several occasions and that it knew it had so breached the law. The Minister for Community Services has told the Assembly that she became aware of the breaches in late July. She apparently allowed the breaches to continue until early August. Attorney, will you, as the first law officer, be seeking advice on whether these breaches have occurred and on what action you should take as a result?

MR CORBELL: Any suggestion that there has been a failing or a breach of the law in relation to a particular statute would fall, in the first instance, to the minister responsible for that statute. In this instance the responsible minister is Ms Burch, and she has outlined what steps she is taking to ascertain what those circumstances are. As the Chief Minister indicated in question time earlier today, that is a matter where the minister is seeking advice from the Solicitor-General and the Chief Solicitor, and that is an entirely appropriate course of action. It would not be normal for me as the attorney to seek to second guess the decisions of ministers in relation to the operations of pieces of legislation that they are responsible for. Ms Burch is taking the entirely appropriate course of action.

MR HANSON: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Hanson.

MR HANSON: Attorney, as the first law officer, do you condone repeated breaches of the law by government directorates?

MR CORBELL: I do not condone any breach of the law, Mr Speaker. The circumstances of this matter, as the Chief Minister has indicated, are subject to further analysis on the part of the government’s legal advisers. It is appropriate to allow those matters to run their course.

MR SESELJA: A supplementary.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Seselja.

MR SESELJA: Attorney, will you, as first law officer, be seeking advice on the role of the Minister for Community Services and her complacency in allowing her directorate to continue to breach the law after she became aware of that practice?

MR CORBELL: I do not accept any assertion that Minister Burch has been complacent. The fact is I think at all times, certainly from what I have seen today, Ms Burch has operated entirely responsibly and has taken the steps that a minister should take when matters of concern are brought to her attention.

In relation to the other part of Mr Seselja’s question, I have already answered it.

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