Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 September 2015) . . Page.. 3102 ..
I reinforce the comments Ms Lawder made this morning; this is not a criticism of the step up for our kids program; this is not a criticism of the hard workers in the Department of Community Services who are trying to place these children in the best possible circumstances and working in their best interest. Those hardworking public servants are almost as frustrated as the families themselves. Ms Lawder needs to be congratulated for speaking out for the families and for the people who want to see children in appropriate, long-term circumstances.
As Ms Lawder said this morning, it makes economic sense. We are going to spend $37 million on the step up for our kids program. We are spending $600 a fortnight per child on children who are in situations where families would love not to be receiving that money; they would love to take over that responsibility. That $600 per child per fortnight is a minimum, because there are medical expenses, school fees and after-school childcare fees. When a family adopts a child they take on all those expenses. When they take on all those expenses, that money is freed up for other children in need. In addition to everything else, it is false economy for this government to sit there and say there is not a problem.
I was reminded this morning when listening to Mr Corbell of a previous minister who said, “There are no problems in the administration of my department,” and stuck their fingers in their ears saying, “La, la, la, la, la.” There was not very much difference. There is a problem. It is not a problem in the Department of Community Services; it is a problem in the courts. It is costing this government and this territory and ACT taxpayers’ money, and it is causing grief to families and, more especially, it is causing grief to children.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (3.38): I thank Ms Lawder for bringing this motion forward today because this is indeed an important topic. I believe that the motion does come from a place of concern and care for people who are in the process of adopting and who are having difficulties with the process that they are going through. I appreciate it is likely that those people are very frustrated and concerned for the welfare of their children and that they want certainty in their lives and for the processes and the bureaucracy to stop. I appreciate that they just want to get on with their lives and with the job of raising the child, or the children, they have welcomed into their families.
However, I have listened very carefully to the debate today—and since we saw the motion yesterday my office has undertaken research to try to get to the bottom of this—and there are appear to be a range of differences of opinion on what is going on and whether there are in fact delays in the courts on these matters. So I am confused to an extent about the best way to proceed on this motion because Ms Lawder has spoken to me today and indicated that she has examples that she has been approached on where people are experiencing delays, and yet the research that I have undertaken and the facts presented to me point to a different outcome.
On that basis I am not going to be able to support the motion in its current form—not because I am not concerned about the welfare of parents who are in the process of adopting, or about the children who are in their care, but primarily because I am not convinced that the issues raised in this motion are best addressed in the way that this motion is put forward. I will come back to my comments on that.