Page 2739 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 6 June 2012

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Official Visitor Bill 2012 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 2 May 2012, on motion by Ms Bresnan:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development) (3.40): Mr Speaker, the government will not be supporting this bill today. The amendments proposed in this bill will radically alter the current framework for official visitors. While the government does not propose to reform this area, the amendments suggested by the Greens in this bill illustrate a lack of understanding of the role of official visitors and are inappropriate for implementation in the ACT’s legislative framework. The government believes the approach taken in this bill undermines the operation of the official visitors scheme and the effectiveness of official visitors themselves.

This bill is deficient in several respects. It proposes to establish a new official visitor for people with disabilities. In commenting on the exposure draft bill, the government indicated that the official visitor model is not an appropriate model to assist people with disabilities. We remain of this view for several reasons.

Firstly, the majority of support services for people with a disability are provided to people in their own homes or in shared accommodation. These services are not subject to court order, tribunal decision, legislation or other administrative requirements. The Greens’ proposals do not provide relevant or necessary authority to either ensure compliance or facilitate improvements in care or services provided in disability settings. The bill suffers from a similar problem in relation to the introduction of a new official visitor for homelessness.

In addition, the Greens’ proposed amendments to introduce an official visitor for people with disabilities do not take into account the work already underway within the Community Services Directorate. That directorate is currently consulting on a co-designed community visitor scheme for people with a disability in the community.

The community visitor scheme will offer additional avenues for people with a disability and their families to resolve their issues and personal concerns about treatment and services. The role of the community visitor will be independent of any organisation and will be tailored to provide greater protection for people with a disability in the community.

The bill also seeks to redefine and standardise the powers and functions of official visitors. This proposal fails to appreciate the different responses and functions that are necessary and appropriate in each of the existing three unique environments. For example, the official visitors for corrections will invariably work in circumstances and be required to perform functions that are different from the official visitor for mental health. The logical response to this is to tailor the powers and functions of each

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