Page 2120 - Week 07 - Thursday, 16 May 2013

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Children and Young People Amendment Bill 2013

Mr Rattenbury, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.05): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

As members will recall, the catalyst for this amendment was an incident in 2011 involving the placement of a number of children with a care service that had not been deemed to be a suitable entity under the act. That incident gave rise to a report by the Public Advocate and subsequently a dispute over the application of the Children and Young People Act.

Following the publication of the Public Advocate’s report the government sought advice from the Solicitor-General about the application of the act. That advice has thrown up a situation where, should that interpretation be adopted, it would mean that the quite detailed requirements of the act simply no longer apply and important requirements that were enacted by this place to protect particularly vulnerable children and young people could simply be sidestepped at any time.

The question is whether the act sets out a mandatory scheme or is simply directory of a particular course of action.

The problematic advice that the bill seeks to overcome was the subject of significant debate at the time. In relation to the advice itself, my colleague Ms Hunter went through the issues at the time and set out why the Greens did not believe the advice to be correct. Having had the opportunity to again consider that advice, I remain of the view that it is not correct and not in fact how the act operates.

Nevertheless, as Ms Hunter also said at the time, if any doubt remained about the interpretation of the act, the Greens would introduce a bill to rectify the uncertainty. This bill will do just that and put beyond any doubt that the scheme set out by the act is mandatory.

The fact that the advice remains on the directorate website, together with an assertion that “If the out-of-home carer options are not available, it is important that the director-general retain the ability to place the child in other suitable care arrangements”, demonstrates how important it is that the issue is clarified as the Greens do not believe that this is how the act should be operating.

Given this comes about as a result of a particular incident, it is important to note that in proposing this change it is not my intention to re-litigate the conduct of the Community Services Directorate at that time. The issues are well canvassed in the Public Advocate’s report and subsequent debate in this place and my view is that,

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