Page 2393 - Week 08 - Thursday, 6 June 2013

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Amendment 4 would provide for the Public Advocate or a commissioner from the Human Rights Commission to provide reasonable assistance to an official visitor if asked by an official visitor. Mr Rattenbury has said that it is beneficial for the scheme if the respective oversight bodies could work together as closely as possible and for official visitors to be able to seek assistance directly from either the Public Advocate or the Human Rights Commission. While I am in agreement with Minister Rattenbury on the value of greater collaboration within the official visitors scheme, this amendment is unnecessary. The bill already provides for official visitors to seek assistance from the official visitors board, which is established to provide assistance and support.

The proposed amendment might create a presumption that official visitors should go to the Human Rights Commission or Public Advocate rather than to the board. The board will have the capacity to look at an official visitor’s needs in a systemic way that might not be possible if official visitors approached the Human Rights Commission and Public Advocate in an ad hoc way. Approaching the HRC and Public Advocate separately may result in the board being sidelined and lead to inconsistent approaches to providing information to OVs.

Amendment 5, with proposed amendment 1, removes provisions that provide for how often an official visitor must inspect a visitable place to move them to a disallowable declaration under new section 15A. Despite Mr Rattenbury’s argument that this will clarify the operation of the act, it is not clear that it clarifies anything. What we will have is another disallowable instrument to provide separately for this operational detail but which must be read in conjunction with the other disallowable instrument that provides the other operational details. As I have said before, there is no clarity in this.

In relation to amendment No 6, this amendment would require the official visitors board to monitor the effectiveness of the scheme and be responsible for promoting and enhancing community awareness of the role of official visitors. Recognising the community’s concerns about Ms Bresnan’s first bill, the exposure draft of the Public Advocate (Official Visitors) Amendment Bill, it is important that the board is not put in a position where it is seen to be directing OVs. Since much of the value of official visitors can be seen to come from their being the eyes and ears of their ministers, it would be a step backward if they were to lose their connection with their operational directorates.

Part of that connection comes from the operational areas promoting and facilitating the work of official visitors. If the board is given the function of evaluating the OV scheme, it would effectively be oversighting official visitors. This would detract from the model of official visitors as independent agents.

Amendment 7 will insert another register in the act in addition to the register of approved disability accommodation which must be kept under the act. The amendment would also require me, as the responsible minister, to be responsible for the register rather than operational agencies. It is not clear why this register is

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