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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 August 2017) . . Page.. 2367 ..

Bimberi Youth Justice Centre—ministerial response

MRS KIKKERT: My question is to the Minister for Disability, Children and Youth. Minister, when serious allegations were raised in the Canberra Times on 4 July 2017 about alleged drug use and a lack of staff training at Bimberi, why did you avoid the media for much of the day?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mrs Kikkert for her question but, as I am sure she knows, I did actually speak to the media that day. But also the directorate made available the executive director who has operational responsibility for these matters. He was in a position to answer journalists’ questions in detail, as he did, including, for example, talking about the program of periodic drug screening at Bimberi, which is one of the reasons why he could confidently assert that the drug-screening program has not identified issues around drug use in Bimberi. So we made available expertise, and I also fronted the media.

Ms Lawder: Point of order.

MADAM SPEAKER: Point of order, Ms Lawder.

Ms Lawder: My point of order goes to relevance. The question related to why the minister avoided the media for much of the day. It was not referring to the executive director.

MADAM SPEAKER: At the very beginning of that answer I heard the minister say she responded to the media. So there is no point of order.

MRS KIKKERT: Minister, given that under the Ministerial Code of Conduct a minister should fulfil their obligation to the highest standard, why did you pass on your responsibility to the executive director of children, youth and families to be in the position of having to respond to the media to questions about your ministerial responsibilities?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mrs Kikkert for her supplementary question. As she is well aware, I was elected to this place in October last year. The executive director who has responsibility for these areas has been in place for a significantly longer period than I have and was in a position to speak with authority about the operation of Bimberi over a longer period of time.

I also was happy to make myself available to the media when I was available. I, my office and the directorate have repeatedly answered questions from the media. I have been on radio a number of times in relation to Bimberi, I have answered questions in this place and I have made two statements in this Assembly. I absolutely reject any aspersion that I may be neglecting my role in relation to this matter.

MS LEE: Minister, if as you have stated in your previous answers the executive director was in a better position to answer these questions from the media than you, what made you change your mind and eventually face up to the media in the afternoon?

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