Page 23 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 9 February 2016

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Protection of Rights (Services) Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

Debate resumed from 19 November 2015, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.08): The Canberra Liberals will be moving that this bill be put to committee. Significant concerns have been raised by members of the community and members of various rights organisations who are directly or indirectly affected by these changes, and if the government does not support this being referred to the JACS committee, we will be unable to support this legislation.

The intent of these changes is to implement a new model for the commissioners from the Human Rights Commission, the Public Advocate, the Victims of Crime Commissioner and the Public Trustee, all very important organisations, with somewhat connected roles but also, in many ways, very different roles, requiring them to be quite separate in terms of the people they represent and the service they provide to those that they represent.

The stated objectives of this new framework are that it would be more cohesive and unified for agencies, it would improve accountability and governance and it would be more efficient and effective. I question all of that, as have many in the community, but I fear that the “more efficient” tag of saving resources may be the ultimate driver for this, as opposed to the other elements stated.

Yesterday at short notice we received some amendments on this legislation that would affect the amendments to the victims of crimes complaints, as I understand, in the human rights commissioner area. We have not had time to consult on these amendments in any great detail; we only got them yesterday. It indicates the way this is being put together. It is not a good way to be doing legislation. We need to consider this more formally in committee. If we have a situation where the government are amending their own bill at the midnight hour, it probably suggests that they have not got it right. This is an important change. We need to make sure that we bring the community with us, not divide them, as is currently the case. We have seen amendments affecting the Victims of Crime Commissioner; there may be other good amendments that could improve this bill, make it more workable and bring all of those agencies and the people that they support with the government rather than being divided.

There are a range of concerns that have been raised in the submissions and in my conversations with people who have been affected by these changes and people who are engaged in the various organisations and bodies. There is certainly an increased expectation from the government. We want to make sure that these bodies, where possible, remain separate from government in providing their role, not that they become more enmeshed in government. That seems to be the effect of what will happen.

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