Page 2194 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 4 June 2013
the Public Trustee as chair, the Public Advocate, a representative of the Human Rights Commission and two official visitors elected by their peers.
Madam Speaker, another important element of this bill is to extend the commencement date from 1 July to 1 September this year. This is necessary to enable official visitors to prepare for implementation of the new laws and to establish the board.
Finally, this bill makes consequential amendments to the Children and Young People Act 2008, the Corrections Management Act 2007, the Disability Services Act 1991, the Housing Assistance Act 2007 and the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994.
In considering this bill, we took particular note of the support afforded it by Women With Disabilities ACT, an organisation that is a great advocate for the needs of those women in our community whose lives are so profoundly affected by disabilities. They support the bill and encourage the Assembly to pass it into law.
I note the Greens will be proposing last minute amendments to the bill. I could be critical of that approach because dropping amendments on the table with little or no time to consider them is an unsatisfactory way of dealing with legislation as important as how we look after vulnerable people in our community. However, I also note the government, knowing the act was to commence on 1 July, only introduced this bill in the last sitting period, less than three weeks ago, and with only one sitting week remaining before commencement of an act that required a number of fix-ups. I consider this approach to be unsatisfactory. Nonetheless, we will be supporting this bill and will consider the Greens’ amendments in the context of the detail stage debate.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.15): The Official Visitor Act was the culmination of countless expert reports that highlighted the need for change. The watershed Gallop inquiry of 2001, created after the tragic deaths of three people with disabilities in residential care settings, noted the need for better consultation with consumers and better compliance with disability standards.
Later, in 2004, as preparation for the establishment of the Human Rights Commission, the Australian National University’s Foundation for Effective Markets and Governance, otherwise known as the FEMAG report, laid out a range of recommendations. Included in these were specific recommendations for an official visitor for disabilities and an official visitor for people experiencing homelessness.
The issue was again raised in the 2010 Love has its limits report which recommended the establishment of an official visitor scheme for disability services located within the office of the Public Advocate of the ACT.
The act is a product of a very thorough consultation process with the official visitors, with the Public Advocate, with the Human Rights Commission, with consumers, with carers and with groups representing people with disability across the board. Their views on the issue were overwhelmingly clear; this was a sorely needed reform.