Page 2391 - Week 08 - Thursday, 6 June 2013
doing a disservice to those who are entitled to expect that the scheme for their protection that we create in this place will, in fact, do just that. It is of little consequence to them who funds the service they receive if they are being abused or not receiving adequate care from that service. There is no reason why the official visitors could not similarly act as a safeguard for these people, as for others who receive services funded by the territory.
In conclusion, these amendments will ensure effective operation of the scheme and give us the best possible official visitors scheme for the territory. I am confident that, in fact, it would be the best official visitors scheme in the country. I commend the amendments to the Assembly.
MR DOSZPOT (Molonglo) (12.11): Madam Speaker, the opposition will not be supporting Mr Rattenbury’s amendments to the Official Visitor Amendment Bill 2013. We will not be supporting them because Mr Rattenbury seems to have missed entirely the role and purpose of official visitors in the ACT. Put simply, the role of official visitors is to visit certain places where some of Canberra’s most vulnerable people are accommodated and cared for. They respond to complaints and they look out for their wellbeing.
At the risk of appearing to favour some legislative functions of official visitors over others, it seems to me that the success of the official visitor program depends primarily on two things: firstly, for official visitors to talk with entitled people and anyone else who is concerned about an entitled person or a visitable place; and, secondly, to deal with an entitled person with sensitivity.
The government’s bill, which the opposition foreshadowed on Tuesday it would support, recognises those elements by doing several things. It removes the concept of “inspect” and replaces it with “visit”. It removes the rigidity and regimen of legislatively prescribed activities and processes and preserves a flexible approach. It allows those activities and processes to be outlined in guidelines that can better fit the needs of the day. It allows official visitors to seek the assistance and support of their peers, people who know what it means to be an official visitor and who know the culture and spirit that lies behind the legislation.
In keeping with that culture and spirit, the government’s bill establishes an official visitors board to provide support for official visitors and facilitate collaboration between them. All of these elements address the concerns that official visitors had in the early development stages of the law as it currently stands. It was recognised widely that the law, as passed by the Assembly and which now is being amended, had flaws in those areas. At that time official visitors were concerned that administrative burdens and oversight would compromise their autonomy and impede their flexibility and informality in doing the important work they do with such sensitivity.
So what would Mr Rattenbury’s amendments bring to the government’s bill? They would bring rigidity of functions through a return to prescribed visitation programs. They would bring administrative burden by prescribing additional reporting lines for official visitors. They would return official visitors to an obligation to inspect rather than visit, investigate rather than talk. It would make the board one of assessment and evaluation rather than one of facilitation and support.