The Director-General’s obligation to disclose corrupt conduct

Under the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, the Director-General has a responsibility to report certain forms of corrupt conduct to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Corrupt conduct involves the misuse of public office, for example:

• dishonesty
• partiality (ie. bias)
• breach of trust (ie. misuse of one’s position), or
• misuse of government information where such conduct could amount to a criminal offence, a disciplinary offence or give reasonable grounds for dismissal of a staff member.

Is your child in OOHC ten years old? They can legally apply to come home.

Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 No 157 - S51 Duty of Secretary to give information to certain persons

(1)  If a child or young person is in the care responsibility of the Secretary under this Part or a warrant issued under section 233, the Secretary:
(a)  must, as soon as practicable, cause notice of the fact that the child or young person is in the care responsibility of the Secretary, and the fact that an application may be made to the Secretary for the discharge of the child or young person from the care responsibility of the Secretary and the procedures for making such an application, to be given to:
(i)  in the case of a child who is of or above the age of 10 years or a young person—the child or young person, and

"Adoption Amendment (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2010 (No. 2)"

Page: 25617
Consideration in Detail

Consideration of the Legislative Council amendments.

Schedule of amendments referred to in message of 8 September 2010.

 

        No. 1 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 9:


[2] Section 45A

              Insert after section 45:

45ABackground information about prospective adoptive parents to be made available to birth parents

                  (1) If an application to adopt a child is made by a couple, background information relating to the couple that is obtained by the Director-General or principal officer in connection with the application is, at the request of the birth parents of the child, to be provided to the birth parents before any adoption order may be made in relation to that child.

(2) In this section, background information relating to a couple includes information about the couple's social and cultural background, religious beliefs, domestic relationship and living arrangements, but does not include any information that identifies the couple.

        No. 2 Page 5, schedule 2.1, line 6. Omit "Nothing in this Act affects any policy or practice of an organisation or person providing adoption services". Insert instead "Nothing in Part 3A or 4C affects any policy or practice of a faith-based organisation concerning the provision of adoption services".

No. 3 Page 5, schedule 2.1. Insert after line 15:

                  (3) In this section,

faith-based organisation

                  means an organisation that is established or controlled by a religious organisation and that is accredited under the

Adoption Act 2000

                to provide adoption services.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! With the leave of the House I propose to deal with Legislative Council amendment No. 1 separately and amendments Nos 2 and 3 together.

Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [3.30 p.m.]: I move:

        That Legislative Council amendment No. 1 be agreed to.


I stress to the House that we are dealing with amendments to a bill that has passed both this House and the other place, so these amendments seek to amend a bill that has already been approved. We are not voting on the bill now, we are voting on these specific amendments. The first amendment was moved in the upper House by Fred Nile, MLC, and will put into the legislation the current practice of providing relinquishing parents—birth parents—with background information about prospective adoptive parents including information about their cultural and social background, religious beliefs, domestic relationships and living arrangements. I support Legislative Council amendment No 1. Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron—Premier, and Minister for Redfern Waterloo) [3.31 p.m.]: I note the comments by the member for Sydney. She is correct. Both Houses of the Parliament have approved this legislation and we are now considering amendments to that legislation. The amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile in the other place confirms what is already happening in the rigorous practice of the adoption process. I am therefore willing to support this amendment.

Mr FRANK SARTOR (Rockdale—Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer)) [3.32 p.m.]: I note the amendments carried in the Legislative Council last evening. I believe they were unnecessary but in order to try to resolve the matter I will seek to move a compromise amendment, of which I believe members have a copy. Before doing so I believe I should address some of the comments made, particularly by the Attorney General, in the Legislative Council, because I chose to be concise and brief when I moved my amendment here and I think I am entitled to respond to some of the issues that have been raised. I have much regard for my colleague the Attorney General. I even count him as a friend, which is why I will forgive him for using what I regard as exaggerated language in relation to the amendment I moved and which was carried by this House last week. Learned he and his department may be but the moral values of lawyers are neither superior nor inferior to the values of the rest of us, and this issue is about values, especially the values of the community. I will briefly outline our points of difference.

The Attorney's first assertion was that the amendment carried by this House provided a blanket exemption that would allow adoption providers to discriminate on any ground for any reason, including reasons not related to the best interests of the child. I disagree with this assertion for the following reasons. Any discrimination is constrained by the Adoption Act, which already expresses 19 principles and matters to be considered in making an adoption decision. The interests of the child remain paramount in the Adoption Act. The adoption authority, after all, is with the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The second assertion was that it derogates the important principle underlying the Adoption Act that decisions must be made in the best interests of the child. In my view removing the restriction of the Anti-Discrimination Act on the process of selecting suitable adoptive parents makes the pursuit of the best interests of the child more rather than less likely.

The third claim is that a future director general could remove the delegation to non-government service providers and institute guidelines that permitted discrimination or could be directed by a future Minister to introduce discriminatory practices in relation to adoption. I find this quite implausible, even if it is theoretically possible. I understand where the Attorney is coming from, but I find it implausible. It seems to me we would have to have a director general at some time in the future who lost the plot. We would then have to have a deranged Minister who chose to start discriminating against people for heaven knows what motivation.

Then, of course, there would have to be an acquiescing Premier, Cabinet and Parliament and a meek and mild media who might in 20 years still be obsessed with attacking the Labor Party rather than focusing on other issues. Of course, the Supreme Court would have to let it happen because it makes adoption decisions and there would have to be a community that just did not worry about it. It seems highly implausible. The community has become more sophisticated and in my view those issues would have resolved themselves given the primacy of the Adoption Act and the principles of that Act.

The fourth claim is that the good work that has been done in relation to anti-discrimination would be undermined. The exemption as currently drafted applies to any policy or procedure, organisation or person providing adoption services regardless of whether the policy is related to the adoption process. Then the Attorney cites employment practices as an example. I would agree with the Attorney General if this were true. The Attorney raised this with me and I consulted Parliamentary Counsel, who assured me the amendment I moved in this House last week did not extend to exemption of employment practices from the Anti-Discrimination Act.

I asked the Attorney General to confer with Parliamentary Counsel, which I believe he did. I also told him that if he remained concerned I was happy to instruct Parliamentary Counsel to amend my amendment to make it even clearer that the Anti-Discrimination Act still applied to employment practices of adoptions service providers. I received no such request, yet the amendment has been criticised on these grounds, which I think is pretty unfair, given that I have no point of difference with the Attorney on this issue. As I said, there is no difference of intent here, nor do I believe there is any difference in effect, but I was happy to accommodate that.

The fifth claim is that exempting adopting agencies from the provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act does not make the preference or wishes of birth parents any more or less relevant to the assessment of what is in the best interests of the child. I disagree with this and that is why I will move an amendment shortly to address this issue. I believe that the search processes for matching a child with adoptive parents will be influenced by the operation of the Anti-Discrimination Act, which will in some circumstances diminish the likelihood that the wishes of the child's parents are being met. Therefore, I reject the Attorney's conclusion in this regard.

His sixth claim was that the exemption moved by this House may have the effect of diluting the pool of potential adoptive parents and therefore undermine the pursuit of the best interests of the child. While this conclusion has superficial appeal, further examination would reveal it is unlikely either to dilute the pool of prospective parents or undermine the pursuit of the best interests of the child. This is because if an adoption agency is unable to satisfy itself that the pool of prospective parents corresponds to the wishes of the birth parents and finds the situation would not be in the best interests of the child it is free to extend its search. There is nothing in the amendment carried in the Legislative Assembly last week that limits this from occurring. In fact, I think the converse is true.

The seventh claim was that the Adoption Act has regard first and foremost to the best interests of the child and has a secondary duty to the wishes of the birth parents. While the Adoption Act does provide that the foremost consideration must be the best interests of the child, which is why it should be the only Act at play here, it is wrong to say it imposes a secondary duty to meet the wishes of the birth parents. The wishes of the birth parents are merely one of 19 considerations in section 8 of the Adoption Act and it appears to be of low priority.

The final claim made by the Attorney is that all service providers, including the Department of Community Services, may if they so choose discriminate against whomever they wish for whatever reason regardless of what is in the best interests of the child and what the birth parents may or may not want. With respect, I find this to be quite fanciful. The Adoption Act contains a host of its own discriminatory criteria, the paramount one being that adoption must be in the best interests of the child.

I remind members that the custodians of this process are the Attorney General's own colleagues in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The Attorney General raised issues about which he is concerned and I believe that those issues are quite legitimate. I respect the legal prowess of the Attorney General but I am a bit concerned about the fact that this approach represents unnecessary red tape and the interplay of two Acts when that is unnecessary. I intend to amend the Legislative Council's amendment with a view to establishing whether or not we can arrive at a resolution that addresses most of our concerns. In this regard I note that a reasonable number of members in the upper House—the ratio was 22 to 15—agreed to amend our amendment. I note also that there was a unanimous acceptance of that amendment in this Chamber.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of resolving a conflict between the two Houses, I could achieve 80 per cent of what I sought to achieve through my previous amendment by moving a subsequent amendment. I remind members also, in particular because of the spirited views expressed by the Attorney General in the upper House, that the Western Australian Act was passed some years ago. This provision was put in place some years ago and nothing has been brought to my attention to suggest that there is a major problem. I refer, finally, to the assertion that the amendment that was moved in this House would empower the bureaucracy and disempower the community. I believe the converse to be true. It is really about giving the community more of a say. For the reasons that I have outlined I will move an amendment that involves accepting the amendments moved by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and the Attorney General, which are in the sheet of amendments that has been circulated to members.

There are three components to that amendment. By adding a further provision to section 45, that is, section 45B, adoption service providers will have to satisfy the wishes of parents who place their children up for adoption, whether or not they are birth parents, provided it is in the best interests of the child and without having to be concerned about being caught by the Anti-Discrimination Act. That was my main concern and that is what I sought to resolve. I would prefer to remove the red tape and the clutter. However, given the concerns that have been expressed by the Attorney General and others that discriminatory practices might emerge other than the already provided for statutory discrimination in section 8 of the Adoption Act, I will move an amendment, even though I prefer my previous formulation. I move:

      That the Legislative Council amendment be amended as follows:
      Insert at the end of Amendment No. 1 the following matter (for insertion after proposed section 45A):

45B Consideration of wishes of parents consenting to adoption

            (1) A general consent of the parent of a child to the adoption of the child, as referred to in section 53, may express the wishes of the parent as to the preferred background, beliefs or domestic relationship of any prospective adoptive parents of the child.

 

            (2) Nothing in the

Anti-Discrimination Act 1977

          prevents the Director-General or a principal officer of an adoption service provider from identifying (consistently with the best interests of the child) prospective adoptive parents who reflect those wishes in the adoption selection process under this Part.


Members should note that my amendment does not delete the upper House amendments and it does not delete the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: it simply adds a further section 45B. It does not delete or touch the Attorney General's provision, which is the faith-based exemption; it simply adds a further provision. As I said, it will achieve a substantial measure of what I sought to achieve, that is, when two parents or one parent has to adopt out a child for reasons that are unavoidable—whether or not they are birth parents is irrelevant—their wishes must be given more weight. If a service provider believes that it can satisfy the best interests of the child and also the wishes of the parents it should seek to do that. If it cannot satisfy the best interests of the child test the search can be broadened.

It might mean, for example, that someone might wish to adopt out a disabled child. It might be that only some people in the community are interested in taking disabled kids. This will enable service providers to target and address that issue. If it ends up in Supreme Court the Supreme Court will have to form the view that it is in the best interests of the child. This amendment will meet a substantial part of what I was concerned about. In the spirit of resolving the matter I have moved my amendment which will simply amend the Legislative Council amendment.

Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [3.45 p.m.]: We are amending the amendment of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, MLC. I believe that this amending amendment describes what is happening in practice. As it does not impact on the intention of my bill, I am happy to accept it.

Mr RICHARD AMERY (Mount Druitt) [3.45 p.m.]: I support the Legislative Council amendment No. 1 and Minister Sartor's amendment to it. As the member for Sydney said, Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile's amendment in the upper House relates to existing practice. However, it recognises the role and the rights of a birth child. Minister Sartor's amendment adds to and clarifies that issue. As this amendment is not contentious I will not be voting against it.

Ms LINDA BURNEY (Canterbury—Minister for the State Plan, and Minister for Community Services) [3.46 p.m.]: I hope that all members are clear on this issue. The member for Sydney reiterated what this Government is doing. The amendment moved in the other place by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile regarding disclosure of information about adoptive parents to birth parents confirms current adoption practice. Therefore, I have no hesitation in supporting Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile's amendment. Minister Sartor moved a further amendment in an attempt to confirm the right of adoption agencies to identify prospective adoptive parents who reflect the wishes of birth parents as long as the agency does so in the best interests of the child. I am happy to support that amendment. I reiterate that I support Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile's amendment and Minister Sartor's amendment to it.

Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn) [3.47 p.m.]: All members agree that Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile's amendment confirms existing practice. I think Minister Sartor's amendment also confirms existing practice. Some members might be uncomfortable with that idea. If we asked most parents, "Who would you like to adopt your child", I am sure they would say, "Somebody incredibly rich and very nice." In practice, I am not sure about the extent to which people can qualify who should adopt their children. In light of the contentious nature of this debate and the argument that fewer people would be willing to put up their children for adoption because of their fear that they might go to families with whom they are not comfortable, I support the amendment moved by Minister Sartor. Question—That the amendment to Legislative Council amendment No. 1 be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment to Legislative Council amendment No. 1 agreed to.

Legislative Council amendment No. 1 one as amended agreed to.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: The House will now consider Legislative Council amendments Nos 2 and 3. Ms CLOVER MOORE(Sydney) [3.49 p.m.]: I move:

      That the House agree to Legislative Council amendments Nos 1 and 2.


The amendments to my Adoption Amendment (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2010 (No. 2) that were moved by the Attorney General in the other place resolved some concerns relating to the amendments that were included in the bill that was passed by this House during the consideration in detail stage last week. The initial amendment moved by Minister Sartor, the member for Rockdale, introduced a blanket exemption for organisations or persons that provided adoption services from the provisions in the Anti-Discrimination Act. These initial amendments aim to ensure that the anti-discrimination legislation will not interfere with the adoption agencies achieving what is in the best interests of the child. But I believe they go further than what this House intended to support. They enabled all bodies providing adoption agencies, not just faith-based adoption agencies, to discriminate on any ground, including race, age or religion, and to hold a discriminatory policy even if it is not in the best interests of the child and contradicts the wishes of the birth parents.

The initial amendments also allowed adoption agencies to discriminate in any business they undertake, not just in providing adoption services but also in employing staff and using contractors, for example. The Attorney General has moved new amendments Nos 2 and 3 to ensure that only faith-based adoption agencies will be exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act and that the exemption applies only when agencies provide adoption services. He is clarifying what I believe this House attempted to do. The grounds of discrimination will be delivered to homosexual and transgender discrimination in line with what faith-based adoption agencies have requested. We are doing what the faith-based agencies asked us to do.

Under these amendments the best interests of the child will continue to be paramount in the consideration of adoption agencies over and above any provision in the Anti-Discrimination Act. We are dealing with what is most important in the interests of the child. Relinquishing parents who, I remind the House, do not provide a service and, therefore, are not subject to the provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act, will continue to have a say on who their child is given to and on issues like marital status, religion and sexuality. I support the amendments and commend them to the House.

Mr RICHARD AMERY (Mount Druitt) [3.51 p.m.]: I oppose the amendments. I understand the member for Epping may move a further amendment to change some words contained in the amendments. This is the crucial issue of the day and perhaps is the reason I am angry about the handling of this particular matter last week. During consideration in detail on this bill last week the Minister, the member for Rockdale, moved an amendment that was supported by everyone in this House albeit somewhat qualified and about which some comments were made. However, on the voices everyone supported the amendment of the member for Rockdale. Why? Because that was the only way the bill, which I opposed, could leave this Chamber. I repeat: the bill left this Chamber only because we accepted an amendment by the member for Rockdale.

Ms Gladys Berejiklian: You did too.

Mr RICHARD AMERY: Yes, I did and then opposed the bill. I am glad you are reading Hansard. The amendment by the member for Rockdale states:

        Nothing in this Act affects any policy or practice of an organisation—


I emphasise the words "of an organisation"—

        or person providing adoption services ...


It then goes on to refer to the Adoption Act et cetera. I believe the member for Rockdale addressed a concern of many members in this place and in the community that this bill, although said mainly to be about the interests of the child, perhaps focused too much on the interests of the adopting parents. Many members have raised that matter and I believe that to be the case. The member for Rockdale moved an amendment that to a certain extent actually removes the Anti-Discrimination Act in the adoption process for any organisation or individual. This House passed that amendment. The member for Rockdale said:

      The amendment removes the Anti-Discrimination Act from the adoption process, except with regard to the rights of children.


He then went on to say:

      The amendment I have moved is similar to an amendment that was carried in Western Australia some years ago and has been in operation since.


He referred to a letter sent to him from CatholicCare in the Wollongong diocese:

        In response to your request for urgent feedback on the proposed amendments I can state the following. In our opinion and from the legal advice received by Anglicare, the Amendments proposed by Frank Sartor are most welcome by faith based agencies.


I have said already that that amendment was a vehicle to get the bill out of this House. That was my opinion of what happened and it was also the opinion of other members. Clover Moore, the member for Sydney, at the end of her comments about the amendment of the member for Rockdale said:

        I understand that the support for my bill by some members relies on this amendment and I will not oppose it.


We realise now from the mover of this bill that the reason the amendment was passed last week was to get the bill through the House and into the Legislative Council—a comment repeated on many occasions. Minister Burney said that the amendment preserved the main objective of the bill. Daryl Maguire, the member for Wagga Wagga, said:

        I believe this amendment further strengthens the bill.


I supported the amendment and then, of course, opposed the final vote on the bill. I will call the Legislative Council amendment the Hatzistergos amendment. What does it do? Not much except insert some crucial words. The Hatzistergos amendment is not significantly different in wording from the amendment of the member for Rockdale. It states:

        No. 1 Page 5, schedule 2.1, line 6. Omit "Nothing in this Act affects any policy or practice of an organisation or person providing adoption services".


They were the critical words in the original amendment. The amendment continued:

        Insert instead "Nothing in Part 3A or 4C affects any policy or practice of a faith-based organisation concerning the provision of adoption services".


That is the subtle difference. This House addressed the issue about whether this bill is about the interests of the child or the parents. Mr Sartor's amendment clearly distanced this process from the anti-discrimination laws. The amendment of Mr Hatzistergos reinstates the Anti-Discrimination Act for all adoption processes except faith-based organisations, which had been addressed already by the Cabinet and the bill. The procedure was all too cute and I do not believe the amendment of Mr Hatzistergos should be supported. I will vote in favour of a foreshadowed motion by the member for Epping to reinstate some aspects of Mr Sartor's original amendment. I hope I have clarified the matter for the House.

Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn) [3.57 p.m.]: I support the Hatzistergos amendments for two reasons. The first is that discrimination law works best when the exceptions to it are construed narrowly. That is an absolutely essential part of anti-discrimination law. If we make it possible for a whole industry to be exempt, not just from sections 3A and 4C of the Anti-Discrimination Act, that means every ground of discrimination, which can include age, care responsibilities and many other things—

Mr Richard Amery: That is not in the amendment.

Ms PRU GOWARD: It is. That is exactly what we did last week. This is why this House should not do things in haste, but that is a discussion for another time. There were many months in which to prepare these amendments, but I leave that for now. If we pass the bill in its present form, if we do not accept the Hatzistergos amendments, basically we are sending a green light to any industry—the aged care industry, any industry—that wants to discriminate against any service, client or service provider because we would have now created a great big black hole in the anti-discrimination laws of this State. That would be a disgrace. My first ground for supporting the Hatzistergos amendment is that we must do this to preserve our effective anti-discrimination law, which is reflected in every State and Territory and at Commonwealth level. The second reason I support the Hatzistergos amendments is that I, as do other members in this House, regret that we passed it in haste last week. I regret amending the bill in haste last week in our anxiety to address the concerns of the faith-based agencies. It is a respected and accepted exception to discrimination law that faith-based organisations enjoy certain exemptions.

For example, under Commonwealth law religious faith-based organisations do not have to be equal opportunity employers of priests, much to the relief of the Catholic church and parts of the Anglican church. There are many reasons based on culture and tradition that faith-based organisations have always been entitled to exceptions in anti-discrimination law. In a faith-based country, irrespective of whether the faith is Islamic or Christian, we accept that as a general principle. We accept the role of culture, tradition and religion in this country's make-up. On that basis we are perfectly able to support the exception for faith-based agencies. However, not supporting others is a hugely retrograde step when it comes to anti-discrimination law. If that happens what will be next? There are a number of other industries that would be very happy to line up for a similar exemption.

Ms LINDA BURNEY (Canterbury—Minister for the State Plan, and Minister for Community Services) [4.00 p.m.]: I support the Attorney General's amendments, and my support is very much on the bases outlined by the member for Goulburn. For five years I was a member of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board. I understand very well anti-discrimination laws, the history of those laws, and their significance. The debate of this legislation is very important, but what remains most important is the best interests of children. The most important objective remains the removal of discrimination against children of same-sex couples, by allowing both their parents to adopt them, and the protection of religious freedoms of faith-based organisations.

I have been the Minister for Community Services for 20 months. Along with other members of the House, I am deeply aware that the plight of some children in this State is absolutely desperate—it is beyond the imagination of most ordinary people. Essentially, my motivation throughout all of this is particularly to ensure that foster children who are in loving and stable same-sex families get their chance at absolute stability and proper recognition. Let us not forget the objective of this discussion. It is not about backing ourselves into different camps. It is not about getting cross and voting while being cross. It is about voting for these children. In my view part of that lies very much in supporting the Hon. John Hatzistergos's amendment, as outlined by the member for Goulburn, who knows about these matters in a very real way, to avoid opening up a capacity for further discrimination on any basis in the State. That is why support for the Hon. John Hatzistergos's amendment is so very important.

I urge all members to think about that, to think about how proud we are of our anti-discrimination laws in this State, how hard they were fought for, what they mean for decency and fairness, what they have done to support decency and fairness for many years, and, most importantly, the objective of making sure that we give children the very best chance in life. Rearing children is not about whether or not we are gay. It is about making sure that parenting adults love them, give them stability and give them a chance for a normal life. I urge members to think about those factors and support the Hon. John Hatzistergos's amendment.

Mr GREG SMITH (Epping) [4.04 p.m.]: I move:

      That Legislative Council amendment No. 2 be amended by leaving out "Nothing in part 3A or 4C affects any policy or practice of a faith-based organisation concerning the provision of adoption services" and inserting instead:
        Nothing in part 3A or 4C affects any policy, practice or genuine belief of an organisation or person concerning the provision of adoption services.


Although the issue was not put to a vote, in effect this House unanimously supported the amendment moved by the member for Rockdale, Frank Sartor. The reason is that this bill is a private member's bill, in contradiction of a promise made by the Minister that the Government would not be proceeding with recommendations of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice because of a split in the community. A large number of letters and petitions had been received indicating opposition to same-sex adoption.

The closeness of the two votes taken in this House reflected community concerns and there was no consensus on the issue. As the people's House we were reflecting the attitudes of people in our electorates throughout the State, not just the opinions of those who live in inner-city areas of Sydney. That is why the House acted prudently, in view of almost a majority of members who were against the bill, in accepting the amendment, thereby ensuring protection in the legislation from discrimination. One of the problems with discrimination that could occur, and why my amendment is necessary, is that people who are working for the Department of Community Services, Barnardos and other adoption agencies may well genuinely feel that it is in the best interests of a child to place that child with a married couple or a heterosexual couple because of background reasons. Equally, it may well be that there is a policy or attitude in the department that favours same-sex adoption. That is not so strange.

Many of us have tried to keep that issue out of the debate, but one wonders whether, as a result of some of the heat the issue gathered in caucus, it really is out of the debate. Some members, including the Minister for Education and Training, have a list of all the advantages that the Government and its predecessors, the Wran and Unsworth governments, achieved for same-sex couples. What does that have to do with adoption? Everyone said, "Oh, no, that has nothing to do with adoption. We are looking at the best interest of children." The reason I moved the amendment is that I believe the Hon. John Hatzistergos's amendment is just too narrow. He has taken out what we were after. He has removed anti-discrimination provisions that ensured relinquishing mothers and their husband or partner had a good say in what happened to their child because they love that child and do not want that child to go into a lifestyle that their family would not accept and that they would not accept.

All the members of this House are part of a family. All of us had a mother and a father: we are too old for IVF to have generated any of us. Most of us loved our mother and father, and most of them loved us. Why should employees of the Department of Community Services and Barnardos not be allowed to take into account that there are a lot of people who allow their child to be adopted but who want to make sure that their child has a mother and a father? Limiting the relaxation of anti-discrimination laws only to faith-based agencies discriminates against people working in other agencies: it does not give them the same rights.

As I understand it, the Attorney General heard Mr Sartor's amendment in caucus. I believe he would have heard it in caucus because I understand the amendment was discussed in caucus. He knew the implications of the amendment, yet he waited until the Sartor amendment was passed by this House so that he could get the bill across the line. He got the bill across the line.

Mr Michael Daley: He did not have much choice. He was in the other House.

Mr GREG SMITH: It was in the other House—that is true—but he has influence. And he had briefings with his staff. He was offering briefings. This is a private member's bill!

Mr Gerard Martin: It's a conscience vote, too.

Mr GREG SMITH: A conscience vote! When do we get briefings from a Minister of the Crown, using the prestige of his office, on his amendment? He has an agenda, that is, to push for same-sex things, which he is entitled to do. However, we are supposed to be dealing with our consciences, not a caucus decision or party policy. Our consciences will be satisfied if the Hatzistergos amendment is changed in the way I suggest so that any policy, practice or genuine belief of a person is respected. If people genuinely believe that it would be in the best interests of the child to assist a couple to find a similar couple why should they not be protected from any challenge as well? We know that challenges take place. We know that exemptions are tested from time to time. In the Wesley Mission case a gay couple tried to foster a child, knowing that the Wesley Mission did not allow same-sex fostering. That case has been to the Court of Appeal and it is going back there. If we do not protect staff and departments, as well as faith-based organisations, there will be further testing of discrimination in terms of whether proper attitudes have been applied.

Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [4.11 p.m.]: I oppose the amendment moved by the member for Epping to the amendments of the Attorney General because it is far-reaching and it allows for discrimination by all adoption agencies, including the Department of Community Services. Only faith-based agencies have asked for an exemption from anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds, as we have just been reminded, of the religious beliefs of those organisations. The amendment moved by the member for Epping is unnecessary and inappropriate. It may be contrary to the wishes of the relinquishing parent and it may not be in the best interests of the child. The Legislative Council's amendments—that is, the amendments by Fred Nile and the Attorney General—plus the one from the member for Rockdale, which we have agreed to, will ensure that faith-based agencies do not have to provide adoption services to same-sex couples and that relinquishing parents will not be forced to give up their children to same-sex couples. I urge the House to reject this amending amendment.

Mr RICHARD AMERY (Mount Druitt) [4.12 p.m.]: First, I ask members, particularly Labor members, not to judge the amendment moved by the member for Epping based on his political references, attacks on our caucus and other such matters. I support his amendment and its wording, and I do so for several reasons. I shall put a few matters before the House. First, I wanted to see the bill defeated when we voted on whether it should be agreed to in principle. However, the bill was passed by this House: that debate is over. The bill got through this House and through the Legislative Council. Second, I wanted to see the bill that left this House last week become law. Although I knew how I would vote on the bill, many members were torn because of the Sartor amendment. I have spoken with the Clerks and received advice on whether we can simply vote down this amendment and move another amendment. However, I discovered that the amendment moved by the member for Epping more or less restores the content of the Sartor amendment: there is hardly any difference in the wording. Therefore it would simply complicate matters if I moved an amendment with similar wording to that of the member for Epping. That is why I am supporting a Liberal Party member of this House. In effect, the member is simply restoring the original amendment. I challenge the member for Goulburn to write on a whiteboard or blackboard the words of the member for Rockdale and the Attorney General and to fit in all the doom and gloom she put before the House about the implications of the amendment of the member for Rockdale. It is absurd. Basically, the difference is faith-based organisations as opposed to organisations. The member for Rockdale can speak for himself, but he addressed the issue raised by the member for Goulburn last week before a majority of members voted for the bill. So let us not have any nonsense about blood running in rivers and curses on first-born children should an amendment moved by the member for Rockdale become part of the Act. We voted on that last week. The member for Sydney and the member for Goulburn suggested that the adoption process already involves some discriminatory practices. The Adoption Act is probably one of the most discriminatory Acts and processes that we could ever have. Can two 70-year-old people on good incomes, in a stable home, with a great job and $1 million in the bank adopt a newborn baby in New South Wales? Of course not. Why not? Because of their age. Ms Pru Goward: Actually, grandparents do. Mr RICHARD AMERY: The member for Goulburn knows what I am talking about. During the adoption process the potential parent or parents are assessed on whether they would be suitable. Age, stability of family life and income—in other words, all discriminatory considerations—are assessed to ensure that adoption is in the best interests of the child or that at least the child gets the best start, although we know that sometimes people's lives change. However, we have already passed the bill so that debate is finished. I do not believe the arguments put forward by the member for Goulburn and all the doom and gloom that has been spread around this place about the original amendment of the member for Rockdale have any validity. As a personal explanation to Labor members, I support the amendment moved by the member for Epping because it is the closest thing to the original amendment of the member for Rockdale. If the amendment of the member for Epping is defeated I will vote against amendments Nos 2 and 3 from the Legislative Council—known in this debate as the Hatzistergos amendments. Overall, I reject the doom and gloom spread by the member for Sydney and the member for Goulburn and I support the amendment of the member for Epping. Of course, if the amendment is defeated I will oppose the Legislative Council amendments.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [4.17 p.m.]: I remind members that this debate involves a conscience vote. Member with strongly held views will shape their vote according to their beliefs, their political philosophies, and their assessment of the views of the communities they represent. I supported the original passage of this legislation partly because of two amendments, the first of which exempts faith-based agencies. As I said in my contribution to the agreement in principle debate, I believe it is appropriate that the faiths that exist across our religion should be entitled to practise those faiths and not be forced by the State to do otherwise. I also voted for the amendment moved by the member for Rockdale, although for me it was about the consent of birth parents. The House has just passed an amendment that respects parental wishes. I am happy with that.

As much as I admire and respect the member for Epping, and as much as I acknowledge at least the legal skill of the Attorney General, this must not be allowed to become a he said, she said legal debate, absent the views of the child. Therefore, I cannot support the amendment moved by the member for Epping. I do not believe it will allow faith-based agencies to practise what they believe. For instance, it would have protected Wesley Mission from the case that has been brought against it. I have enormous sympathy for Wesley Mission and I am pleased that, belatedly, the Attorney General sought to intervene in order to assist it. I say to the member for Mount Druitt that we should not try to use debate on this amendment, no matter if we start each sentence with the claim that we are not redebating the bill, by rehearsing all the arguments against the bill. Let us just address the amendments and vote according to our conscience and not cloud the issue.

Mr FRANK SARTOR (Rockdale—Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer)) [4.20 p.m.]: I will briefly clarify a couple of matters. I will not support the amendment moved by the member for Epping because in my view it is a poor imitation of the amendment I moved last week. It seems to focus just on same-sex, homosexual and transgender couples. My amendment was much more generic and basically said that under the Adoption Act 17 matters and principles have to be followed. A Supreme Court judge will stand guard on the process and responsible agencies have a delegated authority through the Director General of the Department of Community Services, and they should not be burdened by having to worry about all these other issues.

Adoption agencies and I were concerned, for example, that we might end up with a quota system and if they did not do enough of this type or that type they might end up somehow being seen to be discriminatory. I believe I am correct in that position. I say to the member for Sydney that I also believe my amendment did not affect employment practices. I got that assurance from lawyers. It was never my intention to affect employment practices and I believe my amendment would not have done so. I cannot accept the amendment of the member for Epping because it focuses on homosexual, transgender-type discrimination issues and broadens the scope beyond the faith-based organisations. My amendment was about having a primacy of the Adoption Act and adoption issues. The member for Goulburn may feel this is rushed but I spent three days working on the amendment. I discussed it with the Attorney General several times. I made two amendments based on his comments to me, including making sure that the child was still caught by the Anti-Discrimination Act. I would have made more amendments had the Attorney General kept engaging with me. I believe that we did have time to consider clearly what we were doing. I do not agree that it was something that I thought of on the way in because I wanted to have something to say. I feel very strongly about this issue. I dearly love my lovely kids. I have got two grown-ups as well. I have a very strong view about this matter.

I have said that I will support the Hatzistergos amendments not because I agree with them but because a representative democracy is fundamentally about compromise. The upper House has expressed a clear view one way—its members are probably more stubborn, and less sensible and balanced than we are. Some people even refer to them as an unrepresentative something or other, but I would never repeat that. It has expressed a strong vote in a certain direction. I thank Parliamentary Counsel for his hard work for all members, and with his help I have formulated an amendment that at least achieves a situation different from current custom and practice so that the wishes of people adopting out their children, birth parents or otherwise, can be now considered and acted on without having to worry about the Anti-Discrimination Act. That is why I will support the upper House amendments, even though I do not actually agree with them.

Mr GREG SMITH (Epping) [ 4.23 p.m.]: Could I just change my— Ms Linda Burney: Are you changing your mind? Mr GREG SMITH: No, I constantly give review to these matters but I have not changed my mind. I inform the House that in two places "this" before "part 3A" should be deleted from my amendment as originally drafted. If my amendment is passed I foreshadow that I will move a consequential amendment to amendment No. 3. Ms LINDA BURNEY (Canterbury—Minister for the State Plan, and Minister for Community Services) [4.24 p.m.]: I will not rehash what I said earlier. However, I say clearly that I do not support the amendment of the member for Epping, and that is enough said, sir. Mr DARYL MAGUIRE (Wagga Wagga) [4.25 p.m.]: I said that I would support the amendment moved by the member for Rockdale and the bill on the proviso that the amendment was successful. It was passed in this House by just two votes. I have listened intently to this debate. Some members have said that the amendment moved by the member for Rockdale will open up all sorts of claims by other groups. If the provision is so bad why has that not happened in Western Australia? This legislation is a mirror of that of Western Australia, where that has not happened. This House agreed to the broad amendment moved by the member for Rockdale. I say that we should reject all these amendments, including the amendment of the Attorney General, and stick with the one that we agreed to. If a problem occurs we can send it back to the Legislative Council and if agreement cannot be reached this Parliament has mediation mechanisms to sort it out. I support the original amendment moved by the member for Rockdale and I urge other members to do the same.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron—Premier, and Minister for Redfern Waterloo) [4.26 p.m.]: I support the amendment moved by the Attorney General in the Legislative Council and oppose the amendment moved by the member for Epping. I do not intend to canvass all the arguments as they have already been canvassed. In relation to what the member for Wagga Wagga said, I am advised that the difference is that there is only one adoption agency in Western Australia and it is provided by the State. That is a clear difference between our systems and may account for the differences that the member says we should examine. I say we should be mindful that we are not talking about a comparison of apples with apples in relation to New South Wales and Western Australia but about a comparison of apples and oranges. Last week a number of members spoke to the bill and to the amendments moved by the member for Rockdale. Both Houses of Parliament have expressed a view that the Adoption Act should be amended to allow same-sex parents to adopt. We are now debating—as we debated with the amendment last week and with the amendments in the upper House—how an exemption should be provided to faith-based organisations. Nobody on either side is credibly arguing that an exemption should not be provided to faith-based organisations. I looked at the speeches last week and I interpreted that members who wanted to support the amendment to the Act clearly accepted wholeheartedly that an exemption should be provided to faith-based organisations. Some members who spoke in the debate on the amendment made clear that, while they may not support the amendment to the Adoption Act, they support an exemption to be provided for faith-based organisations. We are now debating precisely the form that exemption should take. We are all trying to grapple with what may or may not be consequences that might flow from how that exemption is structured. I have not yet heard anybody substantially argue that there should not be an exemption provided for faith-based organisations. In this debate on the amendment we should bear that in mind. The risk is that an amendment to the Adoption Act that was passed in this Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council now risks failing because we are having a debate over the form an exemption should take. I understand and respect that there are various views about how that exemption should be provided. We have heard very clearly from the movers of amendments, particularly from the member for Rockdale.

I remind members that we are voting on something we primarily all agree with: that there should be an exemption for faith-based organisations. I urge members to consider the words of the Leader of the Opposition, that this should not become a debate about he said, she said, who said, which legal opinion prevails? We should all remember what we are seeking to do, that is, provide and support an exemption for faith-based organisations. How that occurs is the subject of this debate, but we should be very mindful that what is at risk is overturning the decision taken by both Houses of this Parliament. Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn) [4.30 p.m.]: I think there are a couple of points that we need to agree about. I agree with the Premier that everybody here is saying that faith-based organisations should be exempt, but the consequence of today's amendment moved by the member for Epping is that all adoption agencies be exempt. When we passed the amendment last week I think we all believed that this was about birth parents' rights to have some indicative say in what happened to their children. The amendment of the member for Epping, if passed, takes away the faith-based principle of exemption that has underlain the Anti-Discrimination Act. It very definitely does that. We are not now debating the adoption law; I think we have all agreed on the adoption law. We are now debating what sort of anti-discrimination law we want. I understand why my good friend the member for Epping has moved the amendment. He believes that individuals in those organisations have the right to express their conscience. If they have religious beliefs and they happen to work for the Department of Community Services they are denied the opportunity to reflect their views. That is true, but that is true in all forms of anti-discrimination law. It applies to organisations, not to individuals. If you work for an organisation that has as part of its principles of operation that it will not discriminate on this basis and you are a faith-based person who has contrary beliefs, you have every right to choose not to work for that organisation. That has to be the way that anti-discrimination law works or it would be unworkable because individuals could challenge the organisation for which they work.

Anti-discrimination law has always been based on the principles of organisations, assuming that people have free right of movement between organisations, so they can work for or be part of an organisation that reflects their values. Let there be no doubt: If a non faith-based organisation did not want to allow same-sex adoption it could just reconfigure itself as a faith-based organisation. There are lots of ways around it, if that is what the organisation wants to do. But this does not help the strength of the anti-discrimination law.

What we have to appreciate is the effect, in a sense inadvertently, of the amendments of the member for Rockdale last week and, for other reasons, the member for Epping today. There are other ways of dealing with the rights of individuals who work for non faith-based organisations. They have the right to withdraw from adoption or to seek employment elsewhere. But if we allow this exemption to be as broad as is proposed then I can see no reason why any company in New South Wales could not go to the Anti-Discrimination Board and seek similar changes to the law so that it can be reflected in its industry. And that is not fanciful. That is why the anti-discrimination law is always held to be as narrow in exemptions as it can be: in order to stop exceptions dominating the law. Anti-discrimination law must be based on general principles and not be driven by exemptions.

Mr JOHN AQUILINA (Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.34 p.m.]: I refute explicitly the statement that has been made by the member for Goulburn in relation to the application of the Anti-Discrimination Act and how it may apply to any industry were this amendment to be passed. At the outset I say that it is with considerable regret that I was not in a position to participate in the debate last week. My views on these matters are well known and I take this opportunity to state them very strongly: I am totally opposed to the initial legislation. I felt, after reading Hansard, reading the arguments and discussing the matter with many members, that at least the amendment moved by the member for Rockdale in some way ameliorated some of the issues. I refute claims that have been made that, had I been present, my vote would in some way have affected the passing of the bill. In fact, members are aware that that would not have been the case, so I want to put that to bed.

I support the amendment moved by the member for Epping for a number of reasons. One is that, although this debate has come down to exemptions of faith-based organisations, I believe that the original intention of the member for Rockdale—and I hope I am not wrong in this—was to take that a little further. It was also to give some jurisdiction and rights to parents handing up their children for adoption in relation to being able to state who or what they wanted their child to be adopted to. I think it is important that we get back to that principle—that parents who hand up their children for adoption have every right to make a statement. Observing is one thing; giving organisations the opportunity and the legal right to make positive discrimination is something else. That is what the amendment moved by the member for Epping is all about, as I take it.

I think it is a very strongly held point of view that parents giving up their child for adoption should be able to mandate what type of parents they want their child to be adopted to and what kind of family they want their child to be adopted into, and that is basically what this is all about. That is what I understood the amendment of the member for Rockdale did last week, which we are now trying to change. I do not want to make this a long presentation, having come into the debate so late. However, I will be voting against the Hon. John Hatzistergos's amendment and, should that not be successful, I will vote for the amendment of the member for Epping.

Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [4.37 p.m.]: I remind the member for Riverstone that we are not dealing with Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile's amendment, which we have just supported. It ensures the current practice of providing relinquishing parents—that is, birth parents—with background information about prospective adoptive parents, including information about their cultural and social background, religious beliefs, domestic relationships and living arrangements. So what has just been expressed is already in the bill. It has already been agreed to in this House and in the other place. That is not what the member for Epping is putting up. The matters the member has just raised are already part of the legislation.

Mr GREG SMITH (Epping) [4.38 p.m.]: What I put up was a much milder wording of what the member for Rockdale put up. One would think from the response from some people who are opposing it that I have thrown the devil incarnate into the stadium, as it were. I am trying to stick to the amendment moved by the member for Rockdale, but limit it to the two parts of the Anti-Discrimination Act that the Hon. John Hatzistergos wants to limit it to. Why such outcry? As the member for Riverstone said, parents should have a say. This lets agency officers have a conscience. Why should they not have to work for a particular department because that department might slant adoptions a particular way? I am not accusing them of that, but it is always a possibility.

I am using the reverse of what the Hon. John Hatzistergos said. He said his fears about Mr Sartor's amendment were that some person might slant it towards the so-called redneck heterosexuals and start going against people on grounds of disability, race or whatever. Quite frankly, some might have said that was nonsense, but I would not say that. All I am trying to do is clarify the role of those who work outside faith-based agencies. Of course, my amendment includes faith-based agencies.

Ms LINDA BURNEY (Canterbury—Minister for the State Plan, and Minister for Community Services) [4.39 p.m.]: I want to try to bring this to a vote. Many members have spoken but I want to respond to the comments of the member for Riverstone because, with due respect to him, he is not right on this one. The existing practice is that birth parents are asked whether they want to be involved in the selection of adoptive parents. That happens now. They are asked about the kind of family they would like the child to grow up in. They are also able to make requests about issues such as religion, culture and the relationship status of the adoptive parents.

I ask members to listen to this. Birth parents already are part of the process and those are the things they can express a view about. I can assure members that their views are listened to. As I said, they are asked about the kind of family, about religion, and about the culture and relationship status of adoptive parents. The birth parents are given the opportunity to look at profiles of approved applicants judged as being suitable to parent their child. The non-identifying profile tells the birth parent about the adoptive parents' ages, family composition, educational levels, occupation, cultural background, religion, interests, hobbies and attitudes to post-adoption practice. It is absolutely there now. People really need to understand that. If the birth parents do not like any families being suggested they can ask to consider different families.

Giving birth parents background information about the adoptive family and involving them in the selection process are very important to the establishment of a positive future relationship between the birth parents and adoptive parents. It is about establishing that relationship and it goes to the very point that we are discussing—the best interests of the child. I can tell members from personal experience that you want to know who your parents are. This approach makes sure that it happens. I say to the member for Riverstone that that is what happens; it is the practice now. Openness and ongoing contact between the birth family and the adoptive family have proved to be critical to the adopted child's development and wellbeing. For those members who have doubts I can assure them that these things are considered very seriously in the adoption process.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst) [4.42 p.m.]: As the former shadow Minister for Community Services I confirm, as the Minister for Community Services said, that that is how the process operates. I remind the House that we are concentrating on a very small group of children who go through the type of adoption process that seems to be the focus at the moment. As I understand it, that group numbers less than 20 in New South Wales. For that reason, when members are making their decision they should realise that in a sense what we are debating now is the tail wagging the dog, because the far greater number of people who will seek to use this legislation are those who in many instances include one partner who is the biological parent but has taken up a relationship with a person of the same sex. They number in the hundreds, at least, in New South Wales. Those are the groups.

Most of us would have had approaches as we struggled with our consciences on this issue. We know that in many instances there are people out there who are the biological parent of the child with whom they reside but they are now living with a same-sex partner. They want us to give them the right to let their partner adopt their child and in so doing give that child the certainty of maintenance and an entitlement to their estate if that person passes away. That is what we are doing.

I have the highest regard for the member for Epping. I have been delighted with his presence in the Liberal Party and in the Parliament, but on this issue I differ, with a great degree of consideration. I ask all members to think about only one issue: What is in the best interests of the child. That is the only issue—what is in the best interests of the child, not what is in the best interests of the parent who may be gay. Should that child have the capacity to look to that other person who is living in the house today, will be living in the house tomorrow and will be living in the house for years to come? Will we as a House and as a Parliament give that child the right to look to that person who is in the house with them—irrespective of anything we decide in this place that will continue—and allow the child to have a clear right to maintenance and to claim property entitlements against them, or will we be intimidated from following the right course?

Mr NINOS KHOSHABA (Smithfield) [4.45 p.m.]: I will be very brief. Last week I made my position very clear on the bill and it has not changed. The main reason for my stance is that I believe the best interests of the child should come first and I am opposed to the idea of same-sex adoption. However, I think this whole thing is a joke. We as members of Parliament and as legislators need to spend some time consulting with all interested groups, whether they are faith-based or community-based, and our constituents, and try to come to some agreement that is in the best interests of the child, not the adult, before trying to push this bill through. I believe this has not happened.

I place on record that I disagree with this whole bill and the amendments to it. I will continue to oppose this issue and any amendment. I believe limited research and consultation was done before this bill was introduced. If members are fair dinkum about this issue the bill should be voted down and withdrawn. If the people of New South Wales think that this is such an important issue a new bill can be introduced at a later stage after extensive community consultation and research. This is a much too important issue for us to just rush it through. The only move I will support is the withdrawal of this bill. I strongly oppose the bill.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Before I call the member for Hawkesbury, I draw members' attention to Standing Order 76, relevance. We are discussing the amendments before the House, not revisiting the bill. Members cannot revisit the entire debate; that will not be tolerated by the Chair. Members will confine their remarks to the amendments before the House.

Mr Ninos Khoshaba: Point of order: For the record, I was talking about the amendment. I said I would not support any amendment to this bill.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I have referred members to Standing Order 76. Members will abide by my ruling.

Mr RAY WILLIAMS (Hawkesbury) [4.47 p.m.]: I will be brief, too, recognising that we are considering the bill in detail and everybody can probably speak 6,700 times and we will probably be here until March 2011 if we do not hurry it along a little. I will support the amendment moved by the member for Epping because it is, as the member for Mount Druitt pointed out, close to what passed by this House last week. Whilst I certainly oppose the bill on the basis of the issues raised by the member for Riverstone, and support his comments, I appreciate the clarification by the member for Mount Druitt. Anyone who is keeping up with the amendments that have been moved would qualify as a NASA technician. The debate is getting very convoluted and difficult to follow. However, I will be supporting the amendment moved by the member for Epping for the reasons I have given.

As the member for Mount Druitt clearly pointed out, we made a decision in this House and I believe that was accepted because of the amendment put forward by the member for Rockdale, albeit it passed by only two votes. The bill left this House in that form and went to the upper House. The engineers in the upper House have unravelled it. As any good bus driver will tell you, if you want to get a tyre changed on a bus you talk to a mechanic, not to an engineer. An engineer starts at the roof and pulls out the lights and blinkers. The bill passed through this place after consultation with people in the community. I did not agree with the bill, but it has gone to the upper House.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE (Bega) [4.49 p.m.]: I contribute briefly in debate to state why the Attorney General moved the amendment in the upper House. The intention of his amendment was to remove the blanket exception that existed, which would lead to discrimination against people with disabilities and the elderly. I support the amendment moved by the Attorney General because it will remove that blanket exemption. I have been contacted by organisations such as the Council for the Ageing, which said that if the Attorney General's amendment was not agreed to it would lead to broad-based discrimination, in particular, against grandparent carers.

I draw the attention of members to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that refers to Lucy Porter, a 78-year-old grandmother who is raising four children. She refers in that article to a "journey in ageism" when it comes to taking care of her grandchildren. I voted against the bill in principle but I will support this amendment because it will remove that blanket exemption—the unintended consequence of debate that occurred in this Chamber a week ago—and ensure that discrimination against people with disabilities and seniors is removed.

Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [4.51 p.m.]: I will not restate the points that have been made already in debate, but I wish to respond to one matter that was raised by the member for Smithfield about inadequate opportunities for consultation. I remind members that back in 1997 this matter was recommended by the Law Reform Commission and there has been a Legislative Council committee inquiry in relation to it. Three months ago I gave notice of my intention to introduce the Adoption Amendment (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2010 and it lay on the table for that whole period, which is a responsible approach when dealing with landmark legislation. I do not believe that all members consider this to be landmark legislation, but for the past three months the bill has been available for members to discuss with their communities. I hope that members will support this amendment to the bill, which has already been approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE (Strathfield—Minister for Fair Trading, Minister for the Arts) [4.52 p.m.]: Last week, when the Adoption Amendment (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2010 (No. 2) was introduced in this place, I spoke strongly about the intentions of the provisions in that bill and I voted against it. If this bill is passed it will be akin to throwing the Anti-Discrimination Act out the window. It is the view of some people that this bill will promote the rights of certain groups in the community—rights that they believe they should have. During debate on this bill members kept referring to the best interests of the child, a provision that is to be found in the Adoption Act and that has been there all the time. No effort has been made to remove that provision, so I do not know why members keep referring to the best interests of the child. Let us compare that phrase with the word "reform", which could be interpreted as "non-reform", or "voluntary reform", which could well lead to being non-voluntary reform. It is a nice term to use. No-one will disagree with the phrase "in the best interests of the child". I am sure that every human being wants to do what is in the best interests of a child or children everywhere. The original bill contained a bit of this and a bit of that and, basically, it was going to afford some groups certain rights. Ms Pru Goward: Point of order: Madam Deputy-Speaker, I remind you of your instruction to the House to debate the amendments.

Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE: I am talking to the amendments.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order. I remind the Minister for Fair Trading that we are talking about a Legislative Council amendment relating to faith-based organisations.

Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE: It came to the attention of several members that the original bill and the amendments that were moved to it would breach the Anti-Discrimination Act. We do not want to breach the Anti-Discrimination Act, which was fought for long and hard by members of this Parliament and by members of the community. The provisions in this bill refer to a positive form of discrimination and state that specific subsets or religious groups should be exempted. I note that the member for Epping is nodding his head in agreement with me, and I am not even a lawyer. Those facts are glaringly obvious. I indicated that I would vote against this flawed legislative package when I contributed to debate on the bill. The amendment moved by the member for Epping, which is far too broad, covers anything relating to the provision of adoption services—for example, human resources and managing the Department of Human Services, which has a responsibility for employing staff to make adoption decisions. That department might decide, because of a religious belief, to discriminate against carers, homosexuals or married people who would be exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act. How far should we go? If that is what we believe why do we not just take the Anti-Discrimination Act and chuck it out the window? If members vote against the amendment moved by the member for Epping and they vote for the amendments moved by the Attorney General in the other place, we will be faced with the original bill, which was amended, which I did not support. The member for Sydney included some amendments to the bill when she did not know what to do and when she wanted to ensure that she looked after those religious groups. This bill is fundamentally flawed, which is sad as it is an important bill. I cannot support these amendments.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst) [4.57 p.m.]: I do not want to upset anyone, but is it appropriate at this point simply to put the question?

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I was about to put the motion. Mr Daryl Maguire: Before you put the question, could you explain to members the consequence of a yes or a no vote so that they understand the process?

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The House will vote on the amendment moved by the member for Epping. If that amendment is lost, there will be a vote on the amendment moved by the Attorney General in the other place.

Question—That the amendment to Legislative Council amendment No. 2 be agreed to—put.

The House divided.

Ayes, 28
Ms Andrews
Mr Aplin
Mr Aquilina
Mr Baumann
Mr Collier
Ms D'Amore
Mr Fraser
Mr Harris
Mr Hartcher
Ms Hodgkinson
Mr Kerr
Mr McBride
Mr Merton
Mr Page
Mr Provest
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mr Shearan
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Stewart
Mr Stoner
Mr Tripodi
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams

Tellers,
Mr Amery
Mr George

Noes, 60
Mr Ashton
Mr Ayres
Mr Baird
Ms Beamer
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Besseling
Mr Borger
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Campbell
Mr Cansdell
Mr Constance
Mr Coombs
Mr Corrigan
Mr Costa
Mr Daley
Mr Debnam
Mr Dominello
Ms Firth
Ms Gadiel
Mr Gibson
Ms Goward
Mr Greene
Mrs Hancock
Ms Hay
Mr Hazzard
Mr Hickey
Mrs Hopwood
Ms Hornery
Ms Judge
Ms Keneally
Mr Khoshaba
Mr Koperberg
Mr Lalich
Mr Lynch
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms McMahon
Ms Megarrity
Ms Moore
Mr Morris
Mr O'Dea
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Pearce
Mrs Perry
Mr Piccoli
Mr Piper
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mrs Skinner
Mr Stokes
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Terenzini
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr West


Mr Whan
Tellers,
Mr Maguire
Mr Martin

Question resolved in the negative.

Amendment to Legislative Council amendment No. 2 negatived.

Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [5.07 p.m.]: I have been requested to remind the House about what we are voting on because some members were not present for the entire debate.

The SPEAKER: Order! I remind members that the member for Sydney is entitled to speak to her motion. I congratulate all members on their contributions to this difficult debate.

Ms CLOVER MOORE: I will briefly summarise the Legislative Council amendments before us. The Attorney General moved two amendments to ensure that only faith-based adoption agencies will be exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act and that the exemption will apply only when agencies provide adoption services. The grounds for discrimination will be limited to homosexual and transgender discrimination in line with what faith-based adoption agencies have requested. Under these amendments the best interests of the child will continue to be of paramount consideration for adoption agencies over and above any provision in the Anti-Discrimination Act.

Question—That Legislative council amendments Nos 2 and 3 be agreed to—put.

The House divided.


Ayes, 46
Mr Ayres
Ms Beamer
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Besseling
Mr Borger
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Mr Campbell
Mr Coombs
Mr Constance
Mr Corrigan
Mr Daley
Mr Debnam
Mr Dominello
Ms Firth
Mr Furolo
Ms Gadiel
Ms Goward
Mr Greene
Mrs Hancock
Mr Hazzard
Mr Hickey
Mrs Hopwood
Ms Hornery
Ms Keneally
Mr Koperberg
Mr Lynch
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms Megarrity
Ms Moore
Mr Morris
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Pearce
Mr Piccoli
Mr Piper
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mrs Skinner
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Terenzini
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr Whan

Tellers,
Mr Ashton
Mr Martin

Noes, 43
Mr Amery
Ms Andrews
Mr Aplin
Mr Aquilina
Mr Baird
Mr Baumann
Ms Burton
Mr Cansdell
Mr Collier
Mr Costa
Ms D'Amore
Mr Fraser
Mr Gibson
Mr Harris
Mr Hartcher
Ms Hay
Ms Hodgkinson
Ms Judge
Mr Kerr
Mr Khoshaba
Mr Lalich
Mr McBride
Ms McMahon
Mr Merton
Mr O'Dea
Mr Page
Mrs Perry
Mr Provest
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mr Shearan
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Stewart
Mr Stokes
Mr Stoner
Mr Tripodi
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr West
Mr. J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams

Tellers,
Mr George
Mr Maguire

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Legislative Council amendments Nos 2 and 3 agreed to.

Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolutions.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20100909029?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

"Surrogacy Bill 2010"

 Page: 27599

 Consideration in Detail

[Business resumed.]

Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn) [6.30 p.m.]: In addition to the reasons the Minister advanced for including in this bill and specifically outlawing international commercial surrogacy, certainly we are obliged to ensure that all children understand clearly their heritage and parentage. The strong moral reason for supporting this amendment is the exploitation of women in countries such as India and parts of Asia where the sex trade and organ sale industries flourish. Sadly, the surrogacy industry in particular would be attractive to women in those extremely poor countries. No doubt it would be an issue of conflict for them, but it says very little about Australia and its values if we are prepared to outlaw the exploitation of Australian women for the purposes of commercial surrogacy but we are not prepared to outlaw the exploitation of women in poor, developing countries for exactly the same purpose.

Women are not cows; they are not animals and their job is not to bear children for money because other people want children. If it is good enough to ensure that Australian women cannot be exploited commercially for this purpose, out of respect for women around the world—particularly the vulnerable women of Asia and other countries where commercial surrogacy flourishes—we should be particularly mindful that if we do not support this amendment, effectively we are saying that there is one rule for our women and another rule for women in poor countries. That is not good enough. Whilst this Parliament does not have a leading role in international relations and affairs, it should, as much as it is able, uphold Australian values, which must mean respect for all and the rights of all to live lives free of exploitation. Voting the right way will reflect our commitment to women in those poor countries and reinforce their rights as human beings.

Question—That the amendment of Ms Linda Burney be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment of Ms Linda Burney agreed to.

Question—That clauses 11 to 27 be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Clauses 11 to 27 agreed to.

Mr FRANK SARTOR (Rockdale—Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer)) [6.33 p.m.]: I move my amendment:

        No. 1 Page 13. Insert after line 8:

28 Maturity of younger intended parent must be demonstrated

(1) If an intended parent was under 25 years of age when the surrogacy arrangement was entered into, the Court must be satisfied that the intended parent is of sufficient maturity to understand the social and psychological implications of the making of a parentage order.

(2) An intended parent who was under 25 years of age when the surrogacy arrangement was entered into must provide evidence to the satisfaction of the Court:

            (a) that he or she received counselling from a qualified counsellor about the surrogacy arrangement and its social and psychological implications before entering into the surrogacy arrangement, and

(b) that the counsellor was satisfied that he or she was of sufficient maturity to understand the surrogacy arrangement and its social and psychological implications.

        (3) This precondition is a mandatory precondition to the making of a parentage order.

(4) This precondition does not apply to a pre-commencement surrogacy arrangement.

(5) If the Court grants leave to an intended parent to make a sole application in respect of a surrogacy arrangement that involves 2 intended parents, it is not necessary to establish that the intended parent who is not a party to the application meets this precondition.

As I said in my earlier comments, risks are associated with surrogacy and any law cannot foresee or address all of those risks. Clause 26 provides for a birth mother to be at least 25 years of age unless the court grants otherwise. I have added in clause 27 that the intended parents must be 18 years of age when they enter a surrogacy agreement. Given the risks outlined in my earlier comments, I propose an amendment that prescribes additional conditions on intending parents where they are over 18 but under 25 years. Clause 28 will require that the maturity of the younger intending parents be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the court and be the case at both the time of the application for a parentage order and when the preconception surrogacy agreement was entered into. The court can still grant a parentage order for people under 25, but this amendment is an added safeguard. In my agreement in principle speech I listed the range of significant evidence that maturity occurs in the mid-twenties. We also recognise New South Wales driving laws as an example of that maturity. On the basis of the precautionary principle, I move that the amendment be accepted.

Question—That the amendment of Mr Frank Sartor be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment of Mr Frank Sartor agreed to.

Question—That clauses 28 to 58 be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Clauses 28 to 58 agreed to.

Question—That schedules 1 and 2 be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Consideration in detail concluded.

Passing of the Bill


Dr ANDREW McDONALD (Macquarie Fields—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.40 p.m.], on behalf of Ms Carmel Tebbutt: I move:

        That this bill be now passed.


The House divided.

Ayes, 53
Mr Ayres
Mr Baird
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Besseling
Mr Borger
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Campbell
Mr Collier
Mr Constance
Mr Coombs
Mr Corrigan
Mr Costa
Mr Daley
Ms D'Amore
Mr Debnam
Ms Firth
Mr Furolo
Ms Gadiel
Ms Goward
Mr Greene
Mrs Hancock
Ms Hay
Mr Hazzard
Mr Hickey
Ms Hodgkinson
Mrs Hopwood
Ms Hornery
Ms Keneally
Mr Lalich
Mr Lynch
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms McMahon
Ms Megarrity
Ms Moore
Mr Morris
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Pearce
Mr Piper
Mr Provest
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mr Stokes
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Terenzini
Mr Tripodi
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr Whan
Tellers,
Mr Ashton
Mr Martin

Noes, 27
Mr Amery
Ms Andrews
Mr Aplin
Mr Aquilina
Mr Baumann
Mr Cansdell
Mr Dominello
Mr Draper
Ms Fardell
Mr Fraser
Mr Harris
Mr Hartcher
Ms Judge
Mr Kerr
Mr Khoshaba
Mr McBride
Mr Merton
Mr O'Dea
Mrs Perry
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mr Shearan
Mr Smith
Mr West
Mr R. C. Williams


Tellers,
Mr George
Mr Maguire

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Bill passed and returned to the Legislative Council with a message requesting its concurrence in the amendments.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20101110031?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

"Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment Bill 2010"

Page: 28209
Agreement in Principle

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn) [9.11 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment Bill 2010. The Opposition does not oppose the bill but reserves the right to amend it in the other place should the information foreshadowed to be soon provided confirms that that is necessary. We join with others on our side of the House in lamenting the lateness of the introduction of a bill that appears to be, in a general sense, intended to clarify and reinforce existing aspects of the Act and does not have policy implications of any great significance. However, I certainly agree with the Minister's observation that the Wood inquiry recommendations and the legislative response to them was a complex process. Obviously some of these amendments tidy up the parts of the amending bill we passed earlier that have proven to be more uncertain than we had thought.

The bill deals with a number of issues, primarily the issue of voluntary out-of-home care when that care is provided for more than 90 days in the course of a year. This bill makes clear that it is not 90 consecutive days, which has been a way of, in a sense, getting around the intent of the original legislation. With regard to voluntary out-of-home care, I understand the bill is primarily intended to reflect arrangements for children with disabilities whose parents require respite care. When respite care occurs on more than 90 days a year it can no longer be viewed as an informal arrangement of no long-term consequence to the child.

Obviously, it is not about the kindly neighbour or relative who has the child stay for the occasional weekend. Ninety days a year is obviously a significant part of the child's life and respite care arrangements therefore need some regulation. Clearly, the provision is intended to apply not to children who are removed by statute but to arrangements where the custodians, usually parents, voluntarily relinquish care of their child for certain periods totally more than 90 days each year. Quite rightly, the bill reflects that more formal and ongoing arrangements have obvious implications for the child's wellbeing and safety from abuse or neglect during that time. I refer to the Minister's agreement in principle speech, in which she said:

        The bill makes a number of amendments to improve the protections afforded to children and young people in voluntary out-of-home care. These changes are important not least because many of these children have disabilities, and so are particularly vulnerable.


That is a concern shared by the Opposition, and in that sense the bill is a welcome attempt to provide protections for these children while in voluntary care. I understand that some of the amendments were prompted by the concerns of the Children's Guardian, and I accept the word of the Government in advising that that is the case. If it proves to be otherwise, obviously that will reflect on our response to the bill in the other place. The Opposition supports the importance of ensuring that care providers in these circumstances are properly vetted and their organisations are sufficiently regulated to protect the child's interests. The Minister further said in her agreement in principle speech:

        The Act currently only applies to care arranged between a parent and a designated agency or an agency registered by the Children's Guardian. The new definition will apply more broadly.


The amendment at clause 9 of the bill defines voluntary out-of-home care with reference to the nature of the care provided rather than to the accreditation or registration status of the care provider, ensuring that the definition extends to children in the care of organisations that are currently operating unlawfully. The bill also includes new provisions that make it an offence for unaccredited or unregistered organisations to provide or arrange voluntary care, so that any organisation that is operating unlawfully can now be dealt with. I understand that that was intended in the original bill, but it is now being made explicit. I am sure these changes will be welcomed by the parents of children with disabilities who from time to time seek respite care. I am sure those parents will also welcome the change at schedule 2.3, which repeals an uncommenced amendment that penalises a parent if a child is placed with an unaccredited agency.

The bill gives responsibility for voluntary care explicitly to the Children's Guardian. I understand that this change has been driven by the Children's Guardian. The exception to this is the supervision of children with disabilities. The Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care will provide that supervision when a registered agency chooses not to contract with a designated non-government agency to take on that role. I presume it is intended that that will capture all the voluntary care of children covered by the Act. Overall, the bill appears to attempt to ensure that regular voluntary care—that is, respite care—is part of the same regulatory regime that applies to all other kinds of out-of-home care. I note that the exception to this is out-of-home care provided by the Department of Community Services—which, as we know, is not accredited. Despite this, the inclusion of respite care in this regime should provide a greater level of comfort to parents and children as well as deliver a better standard of care. The bill gives the accredited organisation the right to restrain the child when this is necessary for the safety of the child or that of others, again in line with the rights of other out-of-home care providers. Schedule 1 [17] of the bill makes it clear that financial assistance is available to carers of children or young people who have primary responsibility for that person or persons. It is well understood that foster carers are entitled to financial assistance, but the bill clarifies that entitlement explicitly for those providing emergency care, which may be only of a few days or weeks duration but nonetheless represents a financial cost to the carer. If the Minister needs to clarify that point, I would be grateful if she would do so in her reply.

Items [18] and [19] of schedule 1 will, I believe, be welcomed by adults who have left the foster care system. The provisions entitle an adult who has been in out-of-home care while he or she was a child or young person to free access to his or her personal information held by certain persons or bodies. I think that reflects the Government's graceful recognition that these people should no longer have to pay to access their own files. Indeed, allowing them free access to their files and information will ensure peace of mind for these adults, so many of whom are traumatised by the circumstances of their out-of-home care, as we have often acknowledged in this place. I believe schedule 1 [21] is a very welcome amendment. It enables the Children's Guardian to share information with others and to seek information from others. That is all part of recognising that for these children the best care can really only be ensured when there is a coordinated response, and a coordinated response very much relies on the sharing of information.

Schedule 1 [22] expands the current regulation making powers in relation to probity checks—another very welcome improvement to the bill. Schedule 1 [24] provides that decisions relating to the making and implementation of permanency plans for children and young people are not decisions reviewable by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, which is very sensible. I ask the Minister to clarify in reply that the removal of a child can still be heard by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal but not the nature of the parental responsibility orders. I understand the distinction being made is that the Administrative Decisions Tribunal is still able to deal with that.

The Opposition welcomes schedule 1 [25] as we are increasingly aware of the close connection between the Family Court and the Children's Court and the way these cases often bounce between them. Schedule 1 [25] includes the Family Court of Australia as a Commonwealth agency for the purpose of the exchange of information and coordination of services. Centrelink was already included. I know from dealing with the cases that come to my office that the addition of the Family Court of Australia will be a very welcome inclusion. Finally, the overall intent of the Act is to finetune those aspects of the original response to the Wood report that time has proven were in need of either clarification or confirmation. As I said to the Minister's adviser when we were discussing this, some people might have inferred that these arrangements were as we understand them now from this bill. This makes it explicit. The Opposition does not oppose the bill.

Mr BARRY COLLIER (Miranda—Parliamentary Secretary) [9.21 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak in support of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment Bill 2010. I speak to a number of the amendments to be brought about by the bill, which seeks to bring clarity and in turn strengthen the relationship and role of police in child protection practice. Firstly, this bill will amend section 29(6) of Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act 1998 to add definitions of "serious offence" and "reportable conduct". This will help clarify for both Community Services and law enforcement agencies those rare circumstances when the identity of a reporter may be disclosed to police. This disclosure is only permitted in connection with the investigation of a serious indictable offence or reportable conduct alleged to have been committed or done against a child or young person.

Currently, section 29(4A) permits Community Services to disclose to police the identity of a person who makes a risk of significant harm report so that they are able to investigate a serious offence committed upon a child or young person, where that might impact on a child or young person's safety, welfare or wellbeing. However, the Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act is silent as to what constitutes a "serious offence", and both Community Services and law enforcement agencies need certainty about the types of offences that constitute a serious offence to ensure that reporters' identities are not disclosed unnecessarily. The definitions contained in the bill include "serious indictable offences" as defined in the New South Wales Crimes Act and "reportable conduct" as defined in the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998. Serious indictable offences are those indictable offences punishable by imprisonment for life or for a term of five years or more—for example, murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Reportable conduct includes a range of serious offences against children and young people, such as sex and child pornography offences, offences or misconduct involving child abuse material, child-related personal violence offences, such as intentionally wounding a child, voyeurism and related offences, any assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child, and any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child. Inclusion of a definition in the legislation will streamline the decision-making process for Community Service officers and police, ensure that there is a consistent approach to the provision of information to police, and hopefully make for quick resolution of any issues.

The Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act provides that the director general or a police officer may enter premises and remove a child or young person if they are satisfied on reasonable grounds that the child or young person is at immediate risk of serious harm, and the making of an apprehended violence order would not be sufficient to protect the child or young person. The immediate aim of this power is to remove a child or young person from danger. However, as is right and proper, the matter must then be brought before a court and the director general must establish to the satisfaction of the court that the child or young person was at risk of significant harm. The Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act as presently drafted does not clearly allow the person removing the child or young person, usually a police officer, to gather evidence, including taking photographs, video or other recordings while removing the child or young person.

The proposed amendment to section 241 of the Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act will allow evidence of the circumstances in which the child or young person came to be exposed to a risk of significant harm to be gathered at the time that the child is removed. This will provide the best evidence to the court so that the best decision about what is to happen to the child or young person can be made, and will lessen the probability that a child or young person will be returned to an unsafe situation. As we heard in the Minister's agreement in principle speech, the gathering of the best possible evidence is in everyone's interests, particularly those of the child or young person. I congratulate the Minister for Community Services on the bill. I have pleasure in commending the bill to the House.

Ms LINDA BURNEY (Canterbury—Minister for the State Plan, and Minister for Community Services) [9.25 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Goulburn and the member for Miranda for their contributions to this debate. In my brief response I will clarify the two issues raised by the member for Goulburn. This bill clearly shows that the Government is committed to ensuring the safety of children and young people in New South Wales. The bill includes a number of legislative amendments to clarify and make more workable the operation of the Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act 1998; the legislation that underpins the work of Community Services NSW.

These amendments will finetune changes brought about through the recommendations of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales, referred to by the member for Goulburn, and ensure that the implementation of the recommendations of the Special Commission of Inquiry are effective in keeping children and young people safe. Other amendments are also included, which will strengthen casework practice, clarify court procedures, and expand the regulation-making powers with respect to Children's Services.

I turn first to the recommendations arising from the special commission of inquiry. One of the most significant changes to child protection and out-of-home care services in New South Wales is the new scheme for the provision of voluntary out-of-home care. The amendments contained in this bill will make clear the oversight role of the Children's Guardian in ensuring the safety of children and young people in voluntary out-of-home care placements and clarify the operations of the new scheme. The member for Goulburn is absolutely correct that many of these clarifications and amendments have resulted from the views of the Children's Guardian.

In respect of the voluntary out-of-home care scheme, some of the key amendments contained in the bill include: making clear the definitions used in respect of voluntary out-of-home care; clarifying that the statutory time frames are to be calculated as cumulative days in a 12-month period and not a single continuous period; strengthening the penalty regime; enabling the Children's Guardian to register organisations providing voluntary out-of-home care, and having sufficient power to monitor those agencies; requiring the Children's Guardian to determine which breaches of statutory time frames must be reported to Community Services; and extending the provisions that apply in respect to physical restraint of a child or young person in statutory or supported out-of- home care to voluntary out-of-home care.

Another recommendation of the special commission of inquiry included the requirement that Community Services apply to the Children's Court no later than 72 hours after a child or young person has been removed or assumed into care. This bill clarifies the 72-hour time frame refers to working days and that in periods of extended holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, the application will be filed within five days or on the first working day thereafter. The bill also includes other amendments aimed at improving general casework practice and court procedures. These amendments include removing the prohibition on the admissibility of child protection reports in proceedings under the Commonwealth Family Law Act 1975, the Supreme Court, Coroner's Court, Administrative Decisions Tribunal, Victims Compensation Tribunal and Guardianship Tribunal matters.

A further amendment clarifies that the disclosure of the identity of the person who makes a report about a child or young person is not unlawful if it is disclosed in connection with the investigation of a serious indictable offence or reportable conduct alleged to have been committed or done against a child or young person. The bill makes clear that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to review and make findings as to whether a permanency plan has been appropriately and adequately made. This jurisdiction lies with the Children's Court. Further amendments clarify those circumstances where the Children's Court may make an order to give effect to a care plan without the need for a care application, clarify that a person authorised under the care Act or regulations or by a search warrant issued under the care Act has the power to take photographs and other recordings during the removal of a child or young person from a premise or place, and ensure that adults who were in care of a child or young person are able to access their records free of charge.

In relation to the regulation of children's services, the bill extends the regulation-making power to enable regulations to be made in respect to probity checks on persons involved in the provision of children's services. The member for Goulburn raised an issue about the eligibility of carers for financial assistance. Carers who care for children will be eligible for financial assistance and relatives who have been given parental responsibility also will be eligible for financial assistance.

Ms Pru Goward: Is that in emergencies as well?

Ms LINDA BURNEY: Yes. The member for Goulburn also raised an issue about the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. Section 245 of the Act ensures that the Administrative Decisions Tribunal can renew the removal of a child. This bill clearly demonstrates the Government's commitment to building on the important measures aimed at strengthening the child protection system in New South Wales, which arose from the special commission of inquiry. In particular, the amendments to improve the protection afforded to children and young people in voluntary out of home care are welcomed because many of these children have disabilities and are particularly vulnerable. The other amendments in the bill are aimed at clarifying and improving the workability of the legislation, which underpins the important child protection work undertaken by Community Services and reflects the Government's continued commitment to improving child protection systems in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.

Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Passing of the Bill


Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20101124045?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

"Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amewndment (Homelessness Reporting Age) Bill 2010"

Page: 28919
Agreement in Principle

Debate resumed from 24 November 2010.

Mr STUART AYRES (Penrith) [4.31 p.m.]: I shall make a brief contribution to the debate on the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Homelessness Reporting Age) Bill 2010. The object of the bill is:

        … to amend the

Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998

        to require the Director-General of the Department of Human Services to act on reports on the homelessness of young persons who are 16 years old and to enable such reports to be made without the consent of the young person concerned. At present, reports on the homelessness of young persons (namely 16 and 17-year-olds) may only be made with the consent of the young person and the Director-General is not required to act on any such report.


The member for Goulburn made the valid point in her agreement in principle speech that the law change last year relating to school attendance left many young homeless people in somewhat of a bureaucratic limbo, given that the link has been broken between the school leaving age and the responsibilities of parents and guardians, including the Minister for Community Services in the role of guardian, and the importance of stable housing for young people. The amendments in this bill help to correct some of those changes. Youth homelessness is a serious issue across New South Wales. The Youth Accommodation Association has provided interesting data on this issue to many members in this place.

Youth homelessness is not isolated or focused in one region; it stretches across all of New South Wales. In 2006 the number of young homeless people aged 12 to 24 years in New South Wales totalled 7,672, representing 28 per cent of the State's homeless population. In the 12-year to 18-year age group, females outnumbered males 56 per cent to 54 per cent, not including the thousands of young people at risk of homelessness. The association expressed its view that homelessness is not just about rooflessness; it is also about missing a stable connection with family networks, friends, broader community groups, sporting clubs and areas where they find the love and support they so desperately need for a strong upbringing.

The majority of homeless young people are often categorised as secondary homeless. Many experience long periods of couch surfing and moving from house to house, with no stable environment in which to work. On Monday I hosted a mental health forum in the Penrith electorate. I thank the member for Barwon, Senator Marise Payne and Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who has Federal responsibilities for mental health, for attending the forum. A number of organisations also attended, particularly those that look after youth accommodation across the Penrith and Nepean regions. The link between mental health and youth homelessness came through clearly in our discussions. A number of organisations operate with Youth Accommodation Interagency Nepean. Tomorrow I am attending a meeting of that organisation to hear more about youth homelessness across western Sydney.

A leading advocate on youth homelessness is the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service [NYAS]. David Keegan, who is the chairman of that organisation, was at Monday's mental health forum and raised a number of issues. In its 2010 annual report the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service spoke about accommodating 395 young people and families from a total of 607 inquiries. However, for that service the biggest demand is for the crisis youth refuge, which accommodated only 89 young people from more than 316 inquiries across the Nepean region. Youth homelessness continues to be a major challenge, particularly in the Penrith electorate, where rental accommodation is extremely scarce. This pushes many people into homelessness because they are unable to get into any form of shared accommodation.

Some of the things that the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service has achieved over the past year and some of the programs it runs include a supported independent living program for young people who are leaving State care. This group of young people is one of the most disadvantaged in our community. Research shows that these young people often end up suffering from chronic mental health, drug abuse problems and homelessness. One by one, we are facilitating the successful transition to young adulthood through holistic case management, which includes education support and employment outcomes. Other areas where the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service has been able to work is targeting vulnerable teenage mothers and young families. It works with approximately 30 young families on any given day to support them when they face homelessness or rental crisis.

The Nepean Youth Accommodation Service responds to the challenge with a strong sense of enthusiasm, and is also working towards developing a head lease program, which is proving to be successful as an important strategy for keeping families together. Another fantastic initiative on which the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service has embarked is the Nepean Youth College, which is run from the Penrith Police and Community Citizens Youth Club. The college offers a second chance to young people who have dropped out of school. It is interesting that this bill targets that group of people who often leave school at an age when they might fall through the cracks. The college will enable those who have dropped out of school to undertake a program for their year 10 study or other accredited courses through TAFE.

More than ever we see that attaining a positive education outcome is linked to solving homelessness. Giving opportunities to people to obtain employment is important in recognising that there is no better welfare than a job. The Nepean Youth Accommodation Service also runs a crisis accommodation program. In respect of one of its individual cases, the service states in its annual report:

        Stephen (17 years old) was accommodated at the youth refuge after spending most of his teenage years in different refuges. Stephen is illiterate, there are indications that he has a mental illness and his teeth are in a very poor condition.

Stephen had a couple of short stays at the refuge, leaving each time without a forwarding address. He was referred to our Dulkara service but did not stay long enough to go through the referral process.

He is that one person for whom we need to work just that little bit harder to see whether we can offer support. The Nepean Youth Accommodation Service is achieving excellent results. Across its client base, 21 per cent of its clients have found independent housing, 18 per cent have found their way into supported accommodation, 13 per cent have been returned to their families, 21 per cent have graduated from programs and only 8 per cent are falling into an unknown category, with 16 per cent going into other services. It is important to acknowledge the governance of the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service and the achievements of the board constituted by directors Siegfried Kunze, David Keegan, Michael Rosano, Gary Askwith, Cliff Foley, George Rabie—who is a very strong contributor to the local Penrith community—Carole Kelaher and Ken Buttrum, AM.

The bill that has been introduced by the member for Goulburn is excellent. It goes a long way to overcoming shortcomings that may have come about as a result of a change in the age at which students may leave school. I commend the member for Goulburn for introducing the bill. I commend the bill to the House.

Dr ANDREW McDONALD (Macquarie Fields—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.40 p.m.]: I lead for the Government in debate on the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Homelessness Reporting Age) Bill 2010, which proposes to amend the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. On behalf of the Minister for Community Services, the Hon. Linda Burney, who is responsible for law and policy that is aimed at protecting each and every one of our children and our young people, I state for the record that the Minister takes a deep and personal interest in any issue affecting child protection in the State, including the impact of homelessness on young people.

The bill has been introduced as a private member's bill by the Opposition spokesperson, and the Minister thanks her for drawing attention to this most difficult issue. At some point many members are likely to come face to face with this issue in their own electorates. For some others, such as me, it is likely to be a frequent and at times a constant problem. However, all members would be aware that supporting young people who face multiple challenges and risks, which may include homelessness, is one of the most fraught areas of child protection. Very relevant to this debate is the fact that in addition to any one or more of the factors placing a young person at risk, young people are also likely to be struggling to understand and define themselves in relation to their environment and the world in which they live. Young people are more likely than younger children to understand the relationships between the challenges they face, their circumstances, those of their family and the people whose responsibility it is to care for them and keep them safe.

It is clear—and certainly the Opposition spokesperson attempted to set out some of these issues in her agreement in principle speech—that the myriad issues that may result in young people leaving home and remaining homeless for an extended period are many and complex. Without a doubt, family conflict, when it is present, is likely to be a trigger. Certainly abuse, neglect, violence, and mental illness affecting either the young person or their parent or guardian may also be a factor; so too poverty, social disadvantage, isolation and unemployment. All have the potential to heighten tensions within families and that may lead to a young person needing or feeling that they have no choice but to leave their home. There are no quick fixes to this issue. When I was a member of the Child Death Review Team, the team examined the mortality rates of children who are of a higher risk, and the words "enduring difficulty" come to mind—and that is a term applied in the reports.

During this debate, it is worth considering the intention of compulsory school attendance amendments to the Education Act that commenced in January this year. It is the implementation of those amendments that has spurred the Opposition spokesperson to, in turn, seek amendment of the child protection legislation. The Act does not set out to penalise parents who are trying their best to ensure that their child or young person satisfies a certain level of school attendance, nor the parents of a child who is living independently, The Act explicitly makes this a defence to prosecution. The Act seeks to address the issue of parents who are simply not prepared to make the effort. Whatever aspersions the Opposition spokesperson might wish to level at the Minister for Community Services regarding the Minister's responsibility for the parenting of many of the young people under her control, not caring—that is, failing to engage with, constantly seek and direct every resource available towards supporting young people, especially those in her care—should not be one of them.

The amendments to the care Act proposed by the Opposition spokesperson have a number of problems. I will address each in turn. First, the proposal flies in the face of the recommendation of the special commission of inquiry that statutory child protection services should focus on children and young people who are at risk of significant harm. That cannot be emphasised strongly enough. If a homeless young person is thought to be at risk of significant harm, the matter should be immediately directed to the helpline. However, forcing a statutory response, when there are no other risk issues and the young person does not want Community Services involved, is inappropriate, inefficient and almost certainly will be ineffective. What is certain is that such a response would place greater pressure on the statutory child protection system. It would mean both an increase in reports coming through the helpline and an increase in reports going out to the field, thereby affecting community service centres and particularly the crisis response team that is responsible for after-hours matters. They are the very outcomes that the special commission of inquiry found needed correction and which the Keep Them Safe reforms have been correcting. This bill would undo that work.

The second and even more persuasive case against this bill focuses on the related issues of participation and consent by young people in decision-making about their lives. It is assumed that children and young people have the right to participate in decision-making about their lives in the context of the New South Wales child protection legislation. In the care Act, this right is enshrined in section 10, which outlines the principle of participation by the child or young person. Beyond the right to participation is that young people in particular should, and do, have both the ability and the right to consent to many of the actions that affect their lives. This is supported by longstanding child development research findings and accepted at law. For example, it is widely accepted that a child, and certainly a young person, may independently consent to medical treatment. This legal principle, which is enshrined in the High Court case re Marion, affirms that when a child or young person sufficiently understands what is being proposed, they are capable of giving informed consent to medical intervention. The care Act also recognises that principle in section 121. It is one of the sections that the bill seeks to amend.

Section 121 of the care Act facilitates the reporting of a young person, which is defined as a person between the ages of 16 and 18 years, who is homeless but only with the consent of that young person. Acting on a report involving a young person who is unwilling to participate is, quite frankly, pointless and indeed is likely only to further isolate that person from support services and those who may be able to assist them in the medium to longer term. Those who are in touch with young people understand that participation is the crucial element to successful engagement with all young people, particularly those who have neither the immediate nor the ongoing support of their family. Participation and consent are vital components in developing trusting relationships with services and the workers who are seeking to engage with and support the young person. It is those relationships that in the longer term will lead to improved engagement and better outcomes for the young person, including locating and maintaining suitable housing.

This Government is more than aware of the devastating impact that homelessness can have on anyone, but particularly on the life of a young person. Young people constitute the largest group among all homeless people. Given their age, life experience, life skills and lack of resources, that is hardly surprising. Through specialist homelessness services, the State and Commonwealth governments fund services for people who otherwise would be living on the streets. In New South Wales, 150 of those services are targeted to young people. Together with youth support services, family counselling services, specific services for young offenders, youth drug and alcohol services, and support services for victims of abuse, the Government seeks to be able to offer the range of services that a young person who is vulnerable and homeless might need to access.

While doing our best to support young people who enter homelessness services, New South Wales also has a strong early intervention strategy to ensure that as many young people as possible receive help before they become homeless or before they become entrenched in the cycle of homelessness. The New South Wales Government's Keep Them Safe action plan to improve child wellbeing has a number of actions that improve services for vulnerable young people and aim to prevent the disengagement from family and community that leads to homelessness. Under Keep Them Safe, the Government has committed to examining the current evidence base and establishing an early intervention program for children and young people aged nine to 15 years.

A business case is currently being considered for the trial of a Vulnerable 9 to 15s Early Intervention Services model. The purpose of this project is to establish a time-limited trial of the service model in three sites across the State. The trial will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the model and enrich the evidence base about effective integrated early intervention programs for this age group. This trial model will target nine- to 15-year-olds who are at risk of continuing disengagement from family, friends, school or their community They may be at risk of entering or escalating in the child protection or juvenile justice system. Priority access will be given to Aboriginal children and their families. Homeless young people who still have a viable connection with their families will be eligible for the program.

More broadly, the South West Sydney Youth Hub, funded by NSW Housing and operated by Mission Australia, integrates social housing with education and job-readiness support for young people who are at risk of homelessness. The youth hub also provides links with drug and alcohol assistance, counselling and life skills development. Other New South Wales Government initiatives assist children and young people who are homeless and include specialist services to help young people reconnect with the community. For example, the Illawarra Youth Homelessness project is a Foyer-type program that provides accommodation and support services for young people with low-level support needs. Support includes assessment, referral, training in living skills, and help with education, training and employment.

The Nepean Youth Homelessness Service provides housing and intensive case management for high-risk young people from 12 to 25 years who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Young people who engage with this service are assisted to access accommodation and services through an interagency coordination group that will case manage their support for up to 16 weeks. Under an accord framework, Housing NSW provides some tenancies for homeless young people with high and complex needs. As I noted earlier, youth homelessness is one of the most difficult issues faced by Community Services. It is rare that a young person finds themselves homeless because of a single contributing factor. And so our response needs to be sophisticated. The strategies I have outlined reflect this and, I believe, demonstrate a commitment to an holistic approach to supporting young people who are homeless.

More than anything else, though, the response needs to be respectful of the young person's developing autonomy. I know the amendment before the House would seem to entirely dismiss this idea; but to help young people grow in maturity and take their place in society as adults, they must be taught to make their own decisions. However, as a community and as elected representatives we still have the clear responsibility to care for them, provide for them, protect them and guide them. We need to make available the support services they need to heal and develop. But this will only happen and it will only be successful if young people choose this path. If I have learned one thing from 30 years of paediatrics it is that at this age, unless there is buy-in from the affected adolescent, it does not work. In a nutshell it is this simple: when it comes to supporting homeless young people, coercion will not and does not work.

To think that removing consent requirements for 16- and 17-year-olds before reporting them to child protection services will make all the difference, or indeed any difference, to the outcomes for these young people is naive at best and destructive at worst. The Government rejects the amendments to the care Act proposed in this bill. They undermine the direction of child protection services in light of the special commission of inquiry, they undermine the participatory rights of young people who come into contact with the child protection system, and they undermine the right of a young person to consent to being drawn into the system, without other factors that place that young person at risk of significant harm. The Government will not support the amendments.

Mr GEOFF PROVEST (Tweed) [4.54 p.m.]: The private member's bill of the shadow Minister for Community Services makes important amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to make provision for the annual reporting to Parliament by Community Services of all deaths of children known to the department. It will also require a change to the legislation to include children who are currently excluded due to the change in the definition of "known to Community Services".

In her agreement in principle speech the shadow Minister referred to several pertinent Acts and said that the changes left homeless young people in terrible limbo because of the link between the school-leaving age and the responsibilities of parents and guardians, including the Minister for Community Services in the role of a guardian, and the importance of a stable home for young people. There is some background to this legislation. Prior to the Wood special commission of inquiry the definition of "known to Community Services" included children and their siblings who had been reported to Community Services in the three years prior to their death. The definition also included children's deaths where the cases had not met the threshold for assessment and Community Services was not involved with the family in the long term.

The legislation is important, and the Government's response to the issue is disappointing. I have a special interest in homelessness, particularly in the Tweed. The latest census report shows that 184 people are living on the streets of the Tweed, many of whom are young people. I have been working with a number of aid agencies, and I support those aid agencies, such as the St Josephs Youth Service. John Storey has been a dedicated worker over many, many years. The service does a great job, and it has turned around the lives of many young people. John Lee from the Make a Friend Association goes out on the streets and feeds many young homeless people and offers guidance. Unfortunately the success of the association is limited due to the lack of facilities. It is fine for the Government to say that there has been a record amount of funding, programs and so on.

I acknowledge those good programs. I have had a meeting with Father Chris Riley of Youth Off the Streets. I applaud his great work. I also honour the commitment and great work of the previous Minister for Juvenile Justice. It is disappointing that we have not been able to get a project in the Tweed called Square One, which offers emergency accommodation for youth, and facilities for guidance and early intervention. I have made a number of submissions to various Ministers; unfortunately the Ministers keep changing. It is frustrating when one goes back and sees the pain and suffering. This issue goes beyond politics. I have been out on the streets. I think my turning point was about two years ago when aid workers and I found two young girls under the age of 12 years who had been living in a tent for a month.

At 3.00 a.m. I walked away and thought, "We've got to be able to do better." We have heard a lot of rhetoric from the Federal and New South Wales governments about extra funding and so on. Recently I had a meeting with senior staff of NSW Housing. In terms of funding for homelessness on the North Coast, $4.5 million will be applied between Port Macquarie and the border. That is disappointing because we are talking about kids who are the future of Australia. We could make a difference. Tweed Heads, where it is estimated that about 80 young people live on the streets, will get two workers who will assist in finding some form of accommodation for them. Last year alone we spent $600,000 through the Department of Housing on emergency accommodation.

On the other side of the coin we have only 30 Department of Community Services officers and last year alone 2,300 category two cases were reported in the electorate of the Tweed, which has one of the highest incidences of child neglect, abuse and homelessness among young people. This is way beyond politics: it is about talking to people at the grassroots level. The Government rejects this bill and we keep moving amendments. People need to get out there and see the people on the street. I have not given up on Square One, which is a great proposal. It is the result of government agencies such as St Joseph's Youth Service, On Track and the Family Centre, all of which work at the coalface, forming a collective. We can pass differing legislation but once funding trickles down through the bureaucratic nightmare not much of it ends up on the street.

Some $4.5 million has been allocated to deal with youth homelessness from Port Macquarie to the border, yet all the Tweed gets is two extra workers. It is not good enough. These young people deserve our help and our support. I speak to a lot of young homeless people on the street, some of whom are suffering and continue to suffer sexual, physical or verbal abuse when they go home. I know of one 13-year-old girl whose mother gives her $100 on Friday and tells her to come back on Monday because the mother's boyfriend does not like her. What type of mother is that? The girl is keen, but just needs a friend and some support. There is nothing in the Tweed for the youth—no emergency accommodation. A few non-government organisations do a fabulous job and I support them, but they are desperate. They have to rely on using volunteers.

Recently John Lees organised a number of students to sleep out overnight to highlight homelessness. He is frustrated by the lack of funding and services. I am led to believe that in the past month two young women in the Tweed committed suicide because of the hopelessness of their situation. It is fairly trying for my electorate staff to have to deal with young mothers who have been sleeping in cars for many months. There is nowhere for them to go. They can get access to Department of Housing emergency accommodation, but that lasts for only 28 days. What happens after that? They are back in their cars. Predators are out on the street. It is a travesty that decent resources are not allocated to the homeless.

While I acknowledge the parliamentary process in relation to debate on these bills, the real issue is not what occurs in this place or who scores political points; it is about putting serious resources out on the streets to turn the lives of young people around. I was lucky to have a mum and a dad, a nice warm bed to sleep in, meals and clothing, but these kids have nothing. The Government has not supplied them with any resources. The not-for-profit organisations have to beg for free food from Woolworths. I congratulate Woolworths on providing food for the homeless. If John Lees, John Storey, On Track, and the Family Centre were not out there the kids would starve.

The number of young homeless children on the streets in the Tweed is increasing. Unfortunately, the Tweed has the highest percentage of unemployment among young people in the State. It is a travesty that we do not do more to look after these young people. They are at risk. Young girls and young boys are being raped on our streets. Earlier this year the large number of gangs and the high level of youth violence, as well as the lack of government resources in the Tweed, were highlighted on Stateline and Today Tonight. I have been talking about Square One for two years in this place. I have mentioned it probably 30 times. I have approached countless Ministers. I have been hurt personally because of the $4.5 million the Tweed will get only two extra officers. It will get no more money for other resources or emergency accommodation—nothing! Zero! Zilch!

How can I look a 12, 14, or 15-year-old girl or boy in the eye and say, "I'd really like to help you, but I can't. I have nothing"? About 1½ years ago a father came into my office with three young children under the age 15. He abandoned them at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon. He said, "I can't keep these kids any more. I'll probably do them physical harm", and he left. Those young kids had been sleeping in a tent at the back of a showground at Mullumbimby. They were devastated that their natural father walked out and abandoned them. I know a lot of our Department of Community Services workers in the Tweed. They are hardworking men and women who fulfil a role that I certainly could not. I do not think I am emotionally strong enough to deal with the misery they see. However, they responded quickly and the three children abandoned in my electorate office were returned to their natural mother.

I applaud the efforts made in Nepean, Penrith and the central business district, but further out, particularly in regional New South Wales, no government resources are being applied to youth homelessness. The Tweed got two extra workers out of $4.5 million, yet up to 80 kids are on the street in the Tweed. A lot of stakeholders in Square One are not government associations but local businesses, schools and organisations. A clear way to resolve homelessness is for the community to take control. I hope the Government reconsiders its position because youth homelessness is tangible, but at the moment it is not being given priority or resources. Any money that is spent on early intervention will save a lot of money and pain in our communities later. As the old saying goes, "You reap what you sow." I see a lost generation who will get into trouble as a result of antisocial behaviour. It behoves us on both sides of this Chamber to do all we possibly can to look after the homeless.

Mr MATTHEW MORRIS (Charlestown—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.07 p.m.]: I speak to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Homelessness Reporting Age) Bill 2010, introduced by the member for Goulburn. The legislative effect of this bill is that 16- and 17-year-olds who are homeless can be reported to the State child protection agency without the young persons' consent. The member for Goulburn and Opposition spokesperson for Community Services introduced this bill because she is concerned that New South Wales has legislation in place requiring parents to ensure that children and young people up to 17 years of age attend a government or registered non-government school, or participate full time in an approved education or training program and/or paid work.

Under section 23 of the Education Act 1990, failing to do this is an offence, carrying a penalty of between $2,750 and $11,000. I have read and re-read the agreement in principle speech, yet I remain at a loss as to how the proposed amendment is likely to address the member's concerns. The bill is particularly worrying because the proposal demonstrates a clear failure to understand young people and how government and support services can effectively work with them to keep them safe and support them into adulthood. As anyone who understands young people will know, the one strategy that will fail every time is coercion. At this time in their lives nothing is more important to young people than their emerging capacity to make their own decisions. This is what growing up is all about. Young people have the right to express opinions on those things that directly affect their lives, to be involved in decision-making when the outcomes affect their lives, and to consent—when they have the capacity to do so—to actions that will affect their lives.

Reporting young people who are homeless without their consent is flawed in both law and in practice. Section 10 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 sets out the principle of participation when working with children and young people and making decisions under the Act. It emphasises the need to provide the child or young person with information, to provide the child or young person with an opportunity to express their views, and to be advised how their views may be taken into account in any decision-making. This is also reflected in section 121 of the Act, which recognises the rights of young people to freedom of expression, privacy and participation by requiring the consent of a young person who is homeless before a report is made to Community Services. That is the legal problem, but the practical problem is even more compelling. It is simply not possible to work with a young person who refuses to engage. No program or support service will be effective unless the young person consents to participation, and indeed unless some part of them wants to be helped. This is the heartbreaking and frustrating part of working with young people. If we do not recognise this, we set ourselves up to fail. But, more importantly, we set the young person up to fail either in the immediate or the longer term.

The concerns I have raised I know are shared by many. Importantly, they have also been identified by the Legislation Review Committee. The committee reported on the bill on 8 November 2010. The report raises concerns that the proposal may be in conflict with article 12 (1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and may undermine article 16. Article 12 (1) relates to the privacy rights of a young person and article 16 relates to their right to express their views freely. In considering these possible infringements on the rights of young people and balancing those rights against the State's responsibility for their care and protection, the committee has referred the question of whether the amendment may constitute undue trespass on the rights of young people for Parliament's consideration. Those concerns, together with the fact that this proposal will in practice undermine services engagement with vulnerable young people, leave me with no option but to oppose the bill.

There is no doubt that more needs to be done to support young people who are homeless. More often than not, the issues they face are many and complex. As a Government, we need to ensure that young people are able to access the range of services they need at any one point in time. This of course includes education and training as part of a holistic, inclusive response to the needs of the young person. Most importantly, we need to work in partnership with young people. Only with their consent will we be able to help them achieve the very best outcomes for their lives. The problem with the bill is that it undermines the autonomy of young people and, more tragically, it will not work. Some members have illustrated cases that are pertinent to their electorates—and I could certainly do similar—but it is very clear that the challenge is, and I guess always will be, engaging young people, planting the seeds of ideas, and helping them to make good decisions that will assist them immediately and in the future in terms of where their lives go, and how they participate in and become part of our community. We all have an obligation to reach out and support those in need, particularly young people. They are our future; it is an investment. We have an obligation at all times to be there to support those in need.

Mr ROB STOKES (Pittwater) [5.14 p.m.]: The New South Wales Liberals and The Nationals support the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Homelessness Reporting Age) Bill 2010. We think it is a sensible bill that introduces consistency into the treatment of young people in relation to the reporting of homelessness, bringing it into line with what is now the school leaving age. I noted with interest some of the comments by the member for Charlestown. He talked about the right that young people have to aspire to individual freedom and to explore approaching adulthood, and I agree that those things are important. But so is the right to have a roof over your head and the right to food—the basic human rights that we all rely on to survive. We do not believe that any notion of a young person's personal privacy should trump their rights to a place to live and food to eat, and that is what this bill fundamentally seeks to address.

The object of the bill is to amend the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to increase to 17 years the age at which the Department of Community Services is required to investigate claims of homelessness and consider providing services and accommodation, thus aligning the reporting of child and youth homelessness with the new school leaving age. Currently, if a child under 16 years of age becomes homeless, a person may report this to the Department of Community Services and the department is obliged to investigate that report. However, a person may only report a homeless young person over the age of 16—that is, still at school in year 11 or completing the higher school certificate or in full-time training—with the young person's permission. Moreover, the Department of Community Services is not obliged to conduct an investigation and need not provide services for homeless young people as it does for children defined as being under the age of 16. A child is a child. A young person under the age of 18 is still a child, and he or she deserves the support and the protection of our society.

I support the legislation because I believe it tidies up the existing legislation and brings it in line with legislative changes passed by the House last year—namely, the Education Amendment (School Attendance) Bill 2009 and the Education Amendment Bill 2009. Those legislative changes provided that before being eligible to leave school a child must have attained the age of 17 years or have completed year 10 of secondary education, whichever occurs first, and aim to ensure that children of compulsory school age attend school or full-time training. With these changes in mind, it appears entirely appropriate that if a child is required to attend school or full-time training until at least the age of 17 years, then legislation that attempts to ensure their protection and wellbeing should not cease at 16 years of age. The bill will ensure that if the Department of Community Services becomes aware of a homeless young person between the ages of 16 and 17, and they are required to be at school, the department must investigate and provide services, including accommodation, where appropriate.

My immediate observation when looking through this brief bill is that it is incredibly important for schools to help students in their care who are encountering personal hardship, including homelessness. The current problem is that if a child at school has attained the age of 16 years, teachers, principals and staff are unable to step in and seek help and support for that child unless the child gives their consent to do so. This is an issue that I believe needs addressing. In light of this, I acknowledge the efforts of the shadow Minister for Community Services, the member for Goulburn, in identifying this issue and bringing it to the attention of the House. Her passion and interest in seeking to improve the lives of those members of our community in greatest need is admirable, and her commitment should be recognised.

One of the most effective things we can do in this place is introduce legislation that assists our society's most vulnerable, and I congratulate the shadow Minister on doing so. It is commonsense legislation that aims to address an increasing concern in all areas of New South Wales. The reality is that no community is immune to youth homelessness. It is an issue that is not spoken about enough and the extent of the problem is, by most accounts, unknown and only speculative. It is non-discriminatory. It is not defined by socioeconomic background, family structure or location. In my area of Pittwater one aspect of youth homelessness is children being left without parental care—they may have somewhere to live but their parents do not support them on a daily basis.

Recently the minister at one of my local churches in Pittwater found a bunch of 14-year-old boys living in a space under the church. They had been living there for some time. This is happening everywhere—it is happening in all members' communities. I conclude by mentioning some wonderful people in my community who are doing great work in relation to the care of young people. Tony Bates is doing great work with Point Zero, which has been set up on the northern beaches with volunteer workers. I note that at the Pittwater Business Limited breakfast on Wednesday morning local businesses banded together to support the wonderful work of Point Zero. I also mention Mike Kewley, who is a youth worker in my community and a strong advocate for the need for better accommodation options for homeless youth on the northern beaches. Finally, the Legislation Review Committee suggested the bill might somehow undermine Article 16 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation to the privacy rights of young people aged 16 years. I reiterate that privacy is an important right, but so is having a roof over your head and food to eat. I note in that respect that Article 20 of the same convention states:

        A child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment, shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State.


It is important that we provide the assistance required by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and this bill does that. Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn) [5.21 p.m.], in reply: I express my deep disappointment that the Minister for Community Services has not seen fit to be here. That is a terrible mark against her. It is all very well to send the member for Macquarie Fields into the Chamber to read a speech that has presumably been written in the department, but this is an issue of such import to the Australian community—increasingly youth homelessness is the pathway into crime and to another generation of extraordinary disadvantage—that one would think the Minister, even in the dying days of this Government, might have been interested in making some comments about it. The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Homelessness Reporting Age) Bill 2010 is very simple and, as a number of members have pointed out, is essentially in two parts. The first requires the director general to act on reports of homelessness involving children who are 16 years and older. At the moment the department is not required to do that. Secondly, the reports can be made without the consent of the young person concerned. It is my view—and I suspect if we went back through Hansard over the years it would be confirmed—that the age of 16 was specified originally because that was the age at which a kid could reasonably be expected to leave school and get a job. If they were "homeless" and supporting themselves it was really nobody else's business but theirs. They were able to function and they had a reasonable opportunity to be economically self-sufficient. But, as we know now, with compulsory education to the age of 17 that capacity no longer exists for a person between the ages of 16 and 17 years. The bill does not say that the young person has to compulsorily enter housing provided by the department. The bill merely says that the report may be made to the department without the consent of the young person. As many members have already noted, at this age we have to engage with young people quite differently from the way we engage with 8- and 10-year-olds. It is much more about negotiation and gaining their trust and consent. I would have thought that would apply as much to a child of 15 years and 9 months as it does to a child of 16 years and 9 months. When you are working with young people under the age of 16 for whom consent, under the existing law, is not required, you effectively have to negotiate in order to get that young person into the services they need because they can get out the window or they can go and sleep at a friend's place. They can "take off", as we say. It is an absolute nonsense and a disappointing piece of sophistry that the Government should decide not to support the bill because of the issue of consent, when we know that from the age of about 12 the same conditions apply: we are dealing with young people with whom negotiation, trust building and relationship building is very important if they are going to cooperate with an agency or the Government's proposals for their future wellbeing. I think the Government's argument is just a piece of sophistry and an excuse to oppose the bill. The reason the Government is so anxious to oppose a bill that brings the Act into consistency with the new school leaving age is the terrible shortage of services for kids in this age group. We know how few youth shelters there are and we know how few support services there are either in those youth services or in agencies aligned to youth homelessness. The Bowral youth service, for example, comprises a youth shelter that basically runs on the smell of an oily rag and a lot of donations from people such as the Springetts. But it is closed between 9.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. when kids are supposed to be at school. We all know they are not, but the shelter cannot afford to run a day program for those kids during school hours. They are expected to go to school—as they now will be up to the age of 17—but they can do what they like. They do what they like because there is no-one to build a relationship and work with those kids during the day and encourage them to go back to school or find a training course that would be suitable for them, and to address the trauma. We are inevitably talking about kids with post-traumatic stress disorder for whom going to school is clearly a bridge too far and something they are not able to manage. The Government's decision to oppose this bill is a shocking excuse. It does not want any further spotlight on the appalling lack of services for teenagers and the fact that there is a growing crisis in the number of teenagers hanging out on the streets, prostituting themselves, going in and out of other people's houses, and sleeping in bus shelters, and in the very small amount of accommodation that is provided for them. There are no backup services. As the member for Tweed noted—and as all members representing coastal electorates know—teenagers often sleep on the beach, which is why they are in those members' electorates. I commend the bill to the House.

Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put. The House divided.

Ayes, 37
Mr Aplin
Mr Ayres
Mr Baird
Mr Baumann
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Besseling
Mr Cansdell
Mr Constance
Mr Dominello
Mr Draper
Mrs Fardell
Mr Fraser
Ms Goward
Mrs Hancock
Mr Hartcher
Mr Hazzard
Ms Hodgkinson
Mr Humphries
Mr Merton
Mr O'Dea
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Page
Mr Piccoli
Mr Piper
Mr Provest
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mrs Skinner
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Stokes
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams

Tellers,
Mr George
Mr Maguire

Noes, 47
Mr Amery
Ms Andrews
Mr Aquilina
Ms Beamer
Mr Borger
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Campbell
Mr Collier
Mr Coombs
Mr Corrigan
Mr Costa
Mr Daley
Ms D'Amore
Ms Firth
Ms Gadiel
Mr Gibson
Mr Greene
Mr Harris
Ms Hay
Mr Hickey
Ms Hornery
Mr Khoshaba
Mr Koperberg
Mr Lalich
Mr Lynch
Mr McBride
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms McMahon
Ms Megarrity
Mr Morris
Mr Pearce
Mrs Perry
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mr Shearan
Mr Stewart
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Terenzini
Mr Tripodi
Mr West
Mr Whan
Tellers,
Mr Ashton
Mr Martin


Question resolved in the negative.

Motion negatived.

Bill not agreed to in principle.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20101202043?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

"Children Legislation Amendment (Child Death Review Team) Bill 2011"

Page: 6762
Agreement in Principle

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

Mr JAI ROWELL (Wollondilly) [4.08 p.m.]: It was pleasing to see that the changes to the Children Legislation Amendment (Child Death Review Team) Bill 2011 are in line with our commitment made in the lead-up to the March 2011 election. The changes include transferring the Child Death Review Team functions from the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 to the Community Services Act 1993, removing the role of the Minister in certain aspects, altering the number of parliamentary committees that the Ombudsman must report to, extending the term of team members of the Child Death Review Team, and removing the requirement of ministerial approval before the team can undertake research. The Ombudsman no longer has to provide a draft to the Minister; only a final copy will be required.

Questions have been raised as to why the Government is removing the expert role of the Committee on Children and Young People in relation to child deaths. The Committee on Children and Young People is established under the Commission for Children and Young People Act and exists to monitor and review the activities of the Commissioner for Children and Young People. Once the Child Death Review Team is removed from the Commission for Children and Young People Act it falls out of the committee's purview. The parliamentary Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and Police Integrity Commission is the appropriate body to consider all work undertaken by the Ombudsman, and that includes the Child Death Review Team. It makes no sense to require the Ombudsman to report to two committees.

Splitting child death reporting between two parliamentary committees would mean that neither committee would achieve a full understanding of the area. The Committee on Children and Young People has established expertise in the examination of child deaths. The Commissioner for Children and Young People is a member of the Child Death Review Team and may continue to keep the committee informed of the team's deliberations. Why is the Government removing the role of the Minister to endorse the Child Death Review Team's research program? The standard role of the Ombudsman requires a level of independence from government. This is not the case for the Commissioner for Children and Young People, who was the former convener of the Child Death Review Team.

In transferring the team into the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman it is appropriate that the Ombudsman is able to exercise the team's functions with more independence. The Government also believes that the Child Death Review Team, with its considerable expertise and experience, should be an important part of decisions about the team's research. It is for this reason that the Government proposes to require the Ombudsman to obtain the concurrence of the Child Death Review Team before commissioning research on the team's behalf. Why is the Ombudsman required to seek approval of the Minister in exercising his independent role? While the Child Death Review Team is convened and administered by the Ombudsman, it is not part of that office's independent review and monitoring functions.

The team exists to assist the Government to prevent and reduce child deaths. The approach is collaborative and advisory. This is distinct from the Ombudsman's watchdog role where the onus is on providing independent and impartial oversight of government agencies to ensure they fulfil their functions properly. It is appropriate that the review of the applicable legislation to the Ombudsman's oversight functions should be undertaken by parliamentary committees rather than by the Executive being held accountable. The same cannot be said for the Child Death Review Team, the role of which is to assist government. The Executive is the proper place for the review of the team's policy objectives. While this bill ensures that the Ombudsman is able to conduct his Child Death Review Team functions with more independence than was the case for the previous convener, it is appropriate that decisions about the team's policy remain under ministerial control.

Why is the Government removing the statutory requirement for the convener to submit draft Child Death Review Team reports to the Minister prior to tabling? As I said earlier, the standard role of the Ombudsman requires a level of independence from government. In transferring the team to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman it is appropriate that the Ombudsman is able to exercise the team's functions with more independence. This change will provide the Ombudsman with greater independence from government. An administrative undertaking of this nature achieves an appropriate balance between the independence of the Ombudsman's functions and the reasonable expectation that government should be afforded an opportunity to review draft reports for factual errors.

Finally, the bill retains a statutory requirement for the Ombudsman to provide a copy of the final Child Death Review Team's report to the Minister, as is also the case for the Ombudsman reports made under the Ombudsman Act and Community Service (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring) Act. However, we must remember that the recommendations made by Justice Wood were only partially implemented by those opposite. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming to implement the changes. The changes did not come into effect until February and they are half-hearted at best. Luckily, on 26 March we had a change of government. The people of New South Wales elected a government that was not tired, old and tarnished. We have a fresh approach and we respect the recommendations of key stakeholders, so we are getting on and finishing the job. This is yet another example of this Government fulfilling its election promises. It is an important step in improving the health and wellbeing of our youth. The Child Death Review Team is an important entity, and relocating it to fall under the responsibility of the Ombudsman is a positive step for the residents of Wollondilly and all other people of New South Wales. I will spend a few moments addressing comments by some of those opposite. The member for Macquarie Fields—who in most circumstances is respected in his field outside this place—had the hide to come into this Chamber today and say that this legislation is a bit dodgy. Those opposite had 16 years to look at this. In fact, they had three or four years after the report was published and what have they done? As usual, they sat on their hands. The member for Macquarie Fields also said that this Government is running a sausage factory, that there is too much work to be done and not enough consultation. Yet the shadow Minister, the member for Auburn, said at the start of this debate that she had had more than a day to look at the bill. Other members, including the member for Keira, said they had only had a couple of minutes. Again, we see nothing but spin from this Opposition that has no substance, no policy direction and is only here to scaremonger no matter what policy we are discussing. Of course the member for Keira made no constructive contribution. He should spend more time focusing on children's needs as opposed to his aspiration to become the leader of the Labor Party at some future point. The member for Bankstown said she supports most of the legislation, but unfortunately she cannot support the bill. It is opposition for opposition's sake. Those opposite should get on with the job, focus on this and support the bill. The Minister Goward should be commended. She spends a lot of time consulting with stakeholders. I know that because she spends a lot of her time in my electorate visiting various groups, organisations and individuals. She is an example of a Minister who is taking politics out of it and is getting on with the job. I support the Minister and the bill, and I commend it to the House.

Mrs TANYA DAVIES (Mulgoa) [4.14 p.m.]: I fully support the Children Legislation Amendment (Child Death Review Team) Bill 2011. I congratulate the Minister for Family and Community Services. I also congratulate the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services on the assistance he provided in formulating this extremely important bill. This bill was written to redress the failure of the former Labor Government and to fully implement Justice Wood's recommendations from the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales. It is interesting to note that that special commission of inquiry was completed in 2008. I will reflect on the various comments made this morning by those opposite in relation to this bill. They said they had no notice of this bill and were not given enough time to consider its content. The subject of this bill came out of a special commission of inquiry in 2008. Those opposite have had a number of years to digest the content of that commission of inquiry and to consider its recommendations. The Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales recommended the transfer of responsibility for convening the Child Death Review Team from the Commission for Children and Young People to the NSW Ombudsman. The New South Wales Liberal Party and The Nationals strongly supported this transfer while in opposition. In April 2009 this Parliament passed legislation that transferred the responsibility of the Child Death Review Team from the Commission for Children and Young People to the Ombudsman. At that time the Coalition in opposition proposed amendments to further strengthen this bill. On 4 November 2010 the Ombudsman released the report "Unresolved issues in the transfer of NSW Child Death Review Team to the Office of the NSW Ombudsman". The report detailed the difficulties experienced by the Ombudsman due to the incomplete nature of the former Government's transfer. There were a number of opportunities for the then Labor Government to understand exactly what the Coalition while in opposition desired to achieve with the Child Death Review Team. They have had plenty of time to consider the implications of our policy position. In fact, on 3 March this year we announced in our out-of-home-care policy called "Recovering Children at Risk" that we would support the Ombudsman's role in independently reviewing child deaths in New South Wales by transferring responsibility for coordinating the Child Death Review Team from the Commission for Children and Young People to the Ombudsman's office.

When the former Labor Government eventually backed down from its initial objections after receiving Justice Wood's recommendations, it made only a half-hearted effort and did not fully implement the complete raft of recommendations. This bill is yet another example of the O'Farrell Government delivering on its election commitments. While those opposite claim they had no notice, we told them our policy position on 3 March. Perhaps they did not believe that we would deliver what we promised, because they did not do that while they were in government and running elections. This bill will boost accountability and transparency by supporting the Ombudsman's independence and the work of his office with child deaths. The objective of the Child Death Review Team is to assist government to prevent and reduce the number of deaths of children aged from birth to 17 years.

The Ombudsman's "Report of Reviewable Deaths 2008-2009—Volume 1: Child Deaths", is a difficult and challenging report to read. I ask any member of the House who has not yet read the report to take the time to do so. It is a very sobering review and it shines the spotlight on the situation in our State. From 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2009 a total of 77 child deaths were reviewable. Deaths that are required to be reviewed must meet these criteria: the child died as a result of abuse or neglect; the death occurred in suspicious circumstances; at the time of death the child was in care; at the time of death the child was in detention. Some 20 children died as a result of abuse—that is 20 children too many. It is a heartbreaking figure. Some 23 children died as a result of neglect; six children died in circumstances where there were suspicions of abuse and eight in circumstances suspicious of neglect; and 20 children died while in care.

As the mother of a 4½-year-old girl, it is a heartbreaking statistic that the majority of children whose deaths were reviewable were under five years of age. The death of any child is a tragedy so great that most parents can never fully recover. I have met families who have suffered the loss of a child through disease or accident, and their heartbreak lives with them forever. However, in the case of abused or neglected children, the murder of a perfectly healthy baby or child at the hands of those who are meant to protect and provide for that child is one of the most vile and evil actions of a human being. I question whether they can be called "human". I cannot comprehend an adult taking out their anger on an innocent baby or young person and causing that child's death. Statistics demonstrate that the 20 children who died from abuse and the six who died in circumstances suspicious of abuse did so at the hands of someone within their family.

The Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales recommended the transfer of responsibility for convening the Child Death Review Team from the Commission for Children and Young People to the NSW Ombudsman. The former Labor Government failed to completely deliver this transfer, as I noted earlier. I cannot comprehend the reason for this failure when we are dealing with the murders and deaths of children, the youngest citizens of this State. Children have no voice in many cases and in these particular families they certainly have no voice. Therefore, it is up the wider community, the Government and the non-government sector to stand up and defend these young people who do not have a voice.

The bill delivers a range of changes, but I will focus specifically on two of them. The first is the removal of a requirement to obtain ministerial approval before undertaking certain Child Death Review Team research programs. I commend the Minister for taking this step. It shows that we are a Government that is willing to bring complete transparency to this process. It is a very serious role. It will ensure that the NSW Ombudsman's office will have full authority to investigate any matter it sees fit without any interference, coercion or direction from the Minister. The second provision is the removal of the requirement for the Child Death Review Team to provide a copy of its draft report to the Minister. Instead, a copy of the final report will be provided to the Minister.

When I read about that change I asked myself why the former Labor Government would want to retain that level of insight or control over a draft report. Why would it want to keep that within its power and influence? Why would it want to reduce the level of perceived transparency in a matter as critical as child deaths? To my mind there can be only one reason: it wanted to paper over the seriousness of what was contained in the report. It wanted to water down the detail and the implications that the report would make public. Shame on the former Labor Government for allowing that to happen—there are now 77 children in this State who no longer breathe and play. They died in dreadful circumstances.

I am proud to be part of an O'Farrell-Stoner Government that is prepared to face up to the tough situations. We are prepared to take a stand. We are prepared to work with all levels of government and all levels of the community to find every way we can to address this horrible scourge on our society. The O'Farrell Government will shine the white-hot flame of transparency through this bill. We will face the truth. We will be willing to see the full report as it stands. I commend Minister Goward for accepting these changes and championing the cause in an absolutely brilliant way. We are determined to stand in the gap and defend our young citizens—babies, boys and girls who do not have a voice—and we will work with every sphere of society to reduce and eventually eliminate this scar on our society's conscience. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [4.26 p.m.]: I strongly support Minister Goward's initiatives and those of the O'Farrell-Stoner Government to complete the transfer of the Child Death Review Team to the NSW Ombudsman, which the Children Legislation Amendment (Child Death Review Team) Bill 2011 will effect. I have been in this place for almost 21 years and during that time I held 18 or 19 portfolios in opposition. The one portfolio that touched me more profoundly than any other portfolio was that of shadow Minister for Community Services. The job of being Minister or shadow Minister in this portfolio area is demanding because it takes you up close and personal to some of the most horrific acts that can be done to our children.

As I sat here and listened to this debate I was thinking of a number of children who died, often in horrific circumstances, and their families. I remember the agony that was occasioned to the families in the aftermath of the deaths of those children. I particularly remember one little girl who died on the Central Coast. I will not name her. The family came from Wollongong. It was a profound breakdown of the duty of care that should have been offered by the Department of Community Services and the mental health team. I am particularly concerned that that family, and other families in similar situations, had to cope with the realisation that the government of the day had done more to cover up the failings of the system over which it presided than to put in place the necessary protections for the children that we are tasked with protecting in this State—the children who are at risk of harm.

When I was shadow Minister and observing and dealing with families that were in the most traumatised of circumstances I saw a Labor Government which, on the face of it, was talking about social justice and purporting to represent families and community, yet took a succession of steps that were more about protecting that Labor Government than about protecting children. For those in this place who do not recollect, in the early 1990s we had a Community Services Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald, whose task—which he carried out very well—was to advocate on behalf of families in horrific circumstances, often when the Department of Community Services had been unable to look after children at risk of harm. That Labor Government removed the Community Services Commissioner.

At the same time I recollect that the Commission for Children and Young People usually—and I emphasise usually—published child death statistics. Yet I well remember the horrific reality one year of opening the report and finding that the figures on child deaths had completely disappeared from the report. There was no doubt in my mind at that time that the Labor Government of the day had taken a deliberate approach to shut down the transparency, accountability and openness necessary to protect children at risk. That culture permeated the Department of Community Services. Most caseworkers in the Department of Community Services are very fine workers, but the culture at the top was atrocious. I recollect also in my time as shadow Minister seeing reports that had been doctored at middle management level, apparently at the direction, but certainly with the approval, of senior management. That eventually led to two 60 Minutes programs and one Four Corners program in which disclosures were made about the horrific cover-ups that were occurring.

I do not intend to say much more than this. In the first seven months of this Government more has been done under the direction of Minister Goward than I saw in the 16 years of the Labor Government, to introduce accountability, transparency and honesty in the reporting processes. There is no question that the job of this Parliament in protecting children at risk of harm, children who have come under the notice of government agencies, particularly Community Services, is paramount. It is the paramount duty of all members to ensure that children at risk of harm are well looked after. I say to the remaining Labor members who were members in those 16 years that the Government of which they were part should hang its head in shame. There are, probably fortunately, few of them left, because those sorts of actions were all too frequent under the former Government—cover-up, not clean up. It was never a case of actually addressing the underlying fundamental problems.

I am very supportive of this Government's initiative. Across all portfolios, we are seeking to shine the cold, hard light on what occurred behind closed doors. Justice Wood would be proud of the fact that this Government has listened to what he wanted to achieve, and the transfer to the Ombudsman is now complete. It will not be perfect; situations will still occur from time to time. We cannot expect that suddenly the resources issues or any other issues of the Department of Community Services will be solved overnight. But this Government is making a fair dinkum effort. We will make sure that the community knows exactly what has been going on behind closed doors and, more importantly, what is happening now. In that, there is hope that the system will improve.

Mr ANDREW CORNWELL (Charlestown) [4.34 p.m.]: I speak on this important reform bill, the Children Legislation Amendment (Child Death Review Tam) Bill 2011 wearing three hats: those of the member for Charlestown, the father of two young children, and Chair of the Committee for Children and Young People. I thank the vast majority of members who have spoken on this bill for conducting this debate with appropriate earnestness. The objective of the Child Death Review Team is to assist government to prevent and reduce the number of deaths of children from birth to 17 years in New South Wales through data analysis, research, and recommendations. The Child Death Review Team research functions are to: maintain a register of child deaths in New South Wales; classify those deaths according to cause, demographic criteria and other relevant factors; identify patterns and trends relating to the deaths; and make recommendations to government and non-government agencies for the prevention of further child deaths.

It is notable that over the period that the Child Death Review Team has existed there has been a gradual trend downwards in those figures. One of the important things about this reform is that we are not falling into complacency. It is important that we try continually to improve the situation. The Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales recommended the transfer of responsibility for convening the Child Death Review Team from the Commission for Children and Young People to the Ombudsman. The New South Wales Coalition in opposition strongly supported this transfer. In April 2009 the New South Wales Parliament passed legislation that transferred responsibility for the New South Wales Child Death Review Team from the Commission for Children and Young People to the NSW Ombudsman. The Coalition in opposition proposed amendments to strengthen Labor's bill.

On 4 November 2010 the Ombudsman released the report "Unresolved Issues in the transfer of the NSW Child Death Review Team to the Office of the NSW Ombudsman". The report detailed the difficulties experienced by the Ombudsman due to the incomplete nature of the former Government's transfer. The transfer came into effect on 11 February 2011. The Ombudsman sought legislative and administrative amendments to: enhance efficiencies in the operations of the Child Death Review Team, ensure the Ombudsman's independence is protected in this new role, and create better alignment between the research activities of the Child Death Review Team and his work on reviewable deaths. While the Child Death Review Team is convened and administered by the Ombudsman, it is not part of the independent review and monitoring functions of that office.

The Child Death Review Team exists to assist the Government to prevent and reduce child deaths. The approach is collaborative and advisory. This is distinct from the Ombudsman's watchdog role, where the onus is on providing independent and impartial oversight of government agencies to ensure they fulfil their functions properly. It is appropriate that the review of legislation applicable to the Ombudsman's oversight function should be undertaken by parliamentary committees, rather than by the very same Executive that is being held accountable. The same cannot be said for the Child Death Review Team, whose role is to assist government. The proper place for review of the team's policy objectives is the Executive.

While the bill ensures that the Ombudsman is able to conduct his Child Death Review Team functions with more independence than was the case for the previous convener, it is appropriate that decisions about the team's policy remit remain under ministerial control. I will address a few points raised by Opposition members. The member for Auburn recognised the importance of Justice Wood's recommendations, of which the transfer of the Child Death Review Team to the Ombudsman was one. I also note her recognition of the importance of the Committee for Children and Young People. Currently, the Ombudsman is reporting to two committees, creating an inefficient system without clear lines of authority.

The member for Macquarie Fields reiterated those concerns, asserting that the Committee for Children and Young People had been legislatively emasculated from conducting rigorous inquiries that may require input from the Child Death Review Team. I will point out some facts on this matter. The Commissioner for Children and Young People is a statutory appointee to the Child Death Review Team. The commissioner reports to the Committee for Children and Young People. Therefore, the commissioner can still report to the committee on matters within the remit of the Child Death Review Team. Also, like all parliamentary committees, the Committee for Children and Young People can call the Ombudsman to report to, and provide evidence to, a parliamentary inquiry. The Committee for Children and Young People will continue to conduct its work in the same rigorous manner it has always done.

I refer now to the breathless hyperbole from the member for Keira. Rather than speak to the substance of the bill, as the member for Macquarie Fields and the member for Auburn did, he stood at the lectern full of faux outrage and sanctimonious puffery complaining that these reforms have appeared suddenly. In April 2009 the Parliament passed legislation to remove the Child Death Review Team from the Commission for Children and Young People to the Ombudsman. On 4 November the Ombudsman released his report outlining that his dual lines of reporting were causing problems. We committed to this reform during the election; this is not a new proposal. The member for Bankstown continued the criticism of the bill, stating that it was being rushed through. She implied that we were not supporting children. I take this opportunity to advise the House that the previous Committee for Children and Young People was unable to fulfil its statutory responsibilities last year because the then Premier prorogued Parliament. If the former Government was so committed to the Committee for Children and Young People, perhaps it would have considered at what stage its reporting program had reached before shutting down Parliament, thus rendering the committee unable to discharge its responsibilities. The crocodile tears being shed by a few Opposition members are either through ignorance or hypocrisy. I urge the Opposition to reconsider its objection to the bill. I place on record my admiration for the work the Commission for Children and Young People carries out under the guidance of its commissioner, Megan Mitchell. While these changes finally complete the separation of the Child Death Review Team from the commission, in no way does it reduce the team's ability to continue to make its valuable contribution to the children of New South Wales.

Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn—Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women) [4.41 p.m.], in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate and for their support for the Children Legislation Amendment (Child Death Review Team) Bill 2011. This bill will facilitate the important work of the Child Death Review Team to reduce and prevent the deaths of children and young people in New South Wales. The Coalition signalled this uncontentious piece of legislation in opposition and in the early days of taking office after the election. The report of Justice James Wood, containing these recommendations, was tabled in the Parliament and received bipartisan support. Only later did the former Government pay lip-service to Justice James Wood while squiggling and wiggling on the stick because of ongoing resentment towards an Ombudsman who persisted in exercising his independence. That is the point we have reached today. I cannot think of any opposition in a Western democracy that has not welcomed the opportunity for more open and accountable scrutiny of a government, and more independence. I cannot imagine any other Australian opposition knocking back the chance to have more open access to government information. But the New South Wales Opposition is a bit different. After 16 years in government the Labor Opposition still thinks its job is to keep the veils of secrecy over public administration in this State and to stop people from knowing what is going on. Obviously, the New South Wales Opposition has forgotten that in this instance it will stop itself from knowing what is going on. How extraordinary and rare that the Opposition wants less scrutiny, less independence and less opportunity to interrogate the workings of the government of the day—certainly it has achieved a first. The Opposition has always known that this would be the end result. From the time we first responded in Parliament to the amending bill, the Opposition knew that we held these objections, as did the Ombudsman, who was so professionally offended by the nature of the legislation that he felt compelled to release a report in November last year on the unfinished business of the Child Death Review Team. This bill takes nothing from the Commissioner for Children and Young People, but reminds us of the clear reasons Justice Wood recommended the Ombudsman as the preferred carrier, team manager and leader for this important work. Of course, that relates to the high levels of independence enjoyed by the Ombudsman of New South Wales—indeed, ombudsmen more generally in Australia. The faux outrage—as described by the member for Charlestown—was that the bill was introduced without enough notice. I would have thought that 18 months and debate in the media was enough notice. When a bill gives an opposition more access to information than it began with, I would have thought it would be very happy for the bill to pass quickly. When all the faux outrage was over, what were the Opposition's arguments and reasons for opposing the bill that would provide more independent and public scrutiny regarding the deaths of vulnerable children? My goodness, it did not attack the independence of the process, or that it would enable the Ombudsman to be more independent of government because that would have drawn attention to its own role in denying him his independence. The Opposition's fundamental issue was which parliamentary committee was best placed to oversight the team. The member for Auburn, and shadow Minister, began by expressing her concern that the Child Death Review Team should report to the parliamentary Committee for Children and Young People because one of its members was a paediatrician. We all love Dr Andrew McDonald and I am grateful that a member of that committee is a paediatrician. But the Opposition knows, or needs to know, that our reporting functions for independent statutory bodies cannot be constructed on the basis of committee memberships from term to term. That is not how it is done. Perhaps the member for Auburn needs to reconsider public administration in practice, if not in theory, if she considers that a valid argument.

The second argument raised by the member for Auburn was that the team should report to the Committee for Children and Young People because that committee has the expertise. No mention is made of the incredible work done by the parliamentary Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission. Expertise is as expert as its members and we thank each member of the Committee for Children and Young People, chaired by our own wonderful member for Charlestown, for their expertise. But expertise does not decide which committee oversights the work of an independent body; that decision lies in the term "oversight". Who is best suited to oversight a function of a body such as the Ombudsman with a particular level and standard of independence from government? Clearly, it is the committee that oversees other aspects of the non-government or independent body system of government, such as the Police Integrity Commission and the other responsibilities of the Ombudsman.

I state clearly that the alternative was to have the Ombudsman report to one committee on some of his functions—a committee that appreciated the independence of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commissioner. Through that framework the committee will oversight the work of the Ombudsman. The Child Death Review Team, under the old arrangements, would expect the Ombudsman to report to another committee under a completely different definition of independence and a different accountability framework. This bill confirms the Ombudsman's level of independence from government, which is what Justice Wood wanted it to do. That is why Justice Wood recommended that the Ombudsman be the convener of the Child Death Review Team.

If the Ombudsman is to be the convener, because of the importance of acquiring and employing his independence to improve and expand on the level of scrutiny, the parliamentary committee to which he or she reports should work in that same framework and at the same level of independence. If that is not what occurs the question that would have to be asked is: What level of independence does the Ombudsman have to meet to carry out his functions as the convener of the Child Death Review Team? That is what the amending bill was supposed to do. This amending bill will refer those matters to the Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and Police Integrity Commission, which means that the Ombudsman's level of independence will be applied consistently to all his work, which will be supervised or overseen by the appropriate parliamentary committee. This will take nothing away from the wonderful work that is being done by the Committee on Children and Young People.

This bill will ensure consistency—a point that I hoped was perfectly obvious to Opposition members. It is apparent to me why Opposition members oppose this legislation. This is an opportunity for them to get back at the Ombudsman who dared to criticise the way in which the former Government ran this State. Opposition members want to ensure that he will be required to answer to a lower level of independence than this Government considers appropriate. As a statutory member of the Child Death Review Team the Commissioner for Children and Young People has every opportunity to answer to the Committee on Children and Young People and that committee can call the Ombudsman before it if it conducts an inquiry. As I said in my opening remarks, the bill makes it clear that:

        ... a member of the [Child Death Review] Team makes the disclosure to any person, body or organisation for the purpose of obtaining information, advice or comments in connection with draft reports prepared by the Team ...


Nothing in this bill prevents the Child Death Review Team or the Ombudsman from being exposed to other parliamentary committees. What is at issue is who oversights this work, which is why we are conferring this level of independence on the Child Death Review Team, through the Ombudsman, who is now leading that team. The Opposition cannot overlook this important point: The Child Death Review Team will be headed by the most independent officer that we have in this area who, without fear or favour, or the suggestion of a political wink and a nudge, will do the work that needs to be done, thus ensuring maximum scrutiny, debate and transparency in the driving of reform. Government members have always said that the best motivator for reform is scrutiny and the discomfort of criticism. Sadly, the member for Macquarie Fields is still fighting the old war. He is still insisting that the Commissioner for Children and Young People should be the convener of the Child Death Review Team. I thought we had sorted out that issue a year ago and Justice Wood sorted out that issue more than a year ago. Justice Wood saw the need for a transparent mechanism to drive change and reform, which is why he recommended these changes. Even though there is bipartisan support for this bill and Justice Wood's findings, it is sad that the member for Macquarie Fields has reverted to fighting an old war. That is a naïve argument from the member for Macquarie Fields, who once was a member of the Child Death Review Team. From time to time all members of this place have been members of other institutions. However, one's personal experience does not detract from the findings of a special commission of inquiry that has bipartisan support.

This report reflects the work of a respected member of the judiciary and those who supported and advised him. In future the Opposition's mantra should not be, "I was on it and it was okay when I was on it so let us not change it." Perhaps that mantra could be changed to, "It could be better". The legislative changes that have been made today will provide the Ombudsman with the necessary framework to carry out his or her functions on the Child Death Review Team. That team will be able to carry out its tasks with greater efficiency and the appropriate level of independence and scrutiny for the greater good of the people and children of New South Wales. I thank the staff in the Ombudsman's office for their advice. I also thank my staff, in particular, my chief of staff, Anthony Bencher, and Penny George and all those who have had such a committed and devoted interest in this subject. I commend the bill to the House.

Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Passing of the Bill


Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20111019029?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

"Western Australia's new Mental Health Bill for Children, making Sterilisation, Psychosurgery and Electric Shock Okay! --- Completely violating the International Covenant on Childrens Rights"

rights-of-the-childChildren of any age will be able to consent to Sterilisation: If a psychiatrist decides that a child (under 18 years) has sufficient maturity, he or she will be able to consent to sterilisation. Parental consent will not be needed. Only after the sterilisation procedure has been performed does it have to be reported and then only to the Chief Psychiatrist. [Pages: 135 & 136 of the Draft Mental Health Bill 2011]

12 year olds will be able to consent to psychosurgery -- WTF! Banned in N.S.W. and the N.T., psychosurgery irreversibly damages the brain by surgery, burning or inserting electrodes. This draft bill proposes to allow a 12 year old child, if considered to be sufficiently mature by a psychiatrist, to be able to consent to psychosurgery. Once the child has consented it goes before the Mental Health Tribunal (MHT) for approval. Parental consent is also not needed for the MHT to approve the psychosurgery. [Pages: 108, 109, 110, 197,198, 199, 213]

12 year olds will be able to consent to electric shock treatment (ECT): Electroshock is hundreds of volts of electricity to the head. Any child aged 12 and over, whom a child and adolescent psychiatrist decides is "mature" enough, will be able to consent to electroshock. Also, once consent is given, there is no requirement for parents or anyone, including the MHT, to approve the electroshock. Electroshock should be banned. Its use on the elderly, pregnant women and children is especially destructive. [Pages: 100, 101, 103, 104, 194, 105]

"Highlights of the Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012"

Click to View the Judicial Misbehaviour Bill 2012Just recently Australia has introduced a bill regarding Judicial Corruption designed to address corruption by judges and magistrates and other officers of the court. To quote "A Bill for an Act to provide for parliamentary commissions to investigate allegations of judicial misbehaviour or incapacity, and for related purposes".  This is great, except for the fact that the bill in itself is corrupt in that it is so discriminatory toward any parent and family undergoing any investigation to which the judicial officer eventually hears about.  What do we mean by this ??  Well, first of all ..

"The Commonwealth is liable for the reasonable costs of legal representation for a Commonwealth judicial officer in relation to whom an investigation is being conducted. Witnesses are entitled to be reimbursed for their expenses." -- discriminatory, you bet.  When are parents undergoing the scrutiny of child protection ever afforded legal aid straight up let alone without even having to apply.  Why is this person automatically entitled to and afforded legal protection when the Australian public is not, and it is merely an investigation, not a court procedure.

"National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013"

 

About this Item
Speakers Stokes Mr Rob; Owen Mr Tim; Patterson Mr Chris; Barr Mr Clayton; Speakman Mr Mark; Parker Mr Jamie; Holstein Mr Chris; Zangari Mr Guy; Acting-Speaker (Ms Sonia Hornery); Gibbons Ms Melanie; Toole Mr Paul; O'Dea Mr Jonathan; Hornery Ms Sonia; Sage Mrs Roza; Williams Mrs Leslie; Marshall Mr Adam; Piper Mr Greg; Acting-Speaker (Mr Lee Evans); Ward Mr Gareth; Constance Mr Andrew
Business Bill, Division, Second Reading, Third Reading, Motion



NATIONAL DISABILITY INSURANCE SCHEME (NSW ENABLING) BILL 2013
Page: 26073

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 19 November 2013.

Mr ROB STOKES (Pittwater—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.11 a.m.]: I make a contribution to debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak in support of such historic and important legislation, which will directly benefit the most vulnerable in our communities, provide additional support for families in greatest need, and help to establish a strong and sustainable disability care system for the future. I am proud that New South Wales has been so proactive in response to this issue. New South Wales is the first State to reach an agreement with the Commonwealth Government to enable a trial period to commence. We are now setting the legislative structure in place to ensure the smoothest possible introduction of this scheme.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme will be a momentous step forward in the delivery of disability care services in New South Wales. I have spoken with many local families in my community, and in particular I commend the Lawrence family of Mona Vale. It is very easy to look at the big changes that will occur, how many will benefit, the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be invested and the thousands of services that will be involved, but what is most important is how this legislation will benefit individuals and families in local communities throughout the State. For many years these individuals and families have spoken about the enormous challenges that exist, the shortfalls and gaps in services, and the fears and uncertainties they hold about the future—in particular, ageing parents of children with disabilities.

In the short period since the launch phase has been underway in the Hunter, we have already heard some encouraging reports about positive changes being made and transformations in how people living with disabilities are conducting their lives. As we know, the transition of the National Disability Insurance Scheme across the rest of the State will take place between 2016 and 2018, and by mid-2018 the Commonwealth Government will have full responsibility for administering the scheme through the National Disability Insurance Agency and supporting ministerial council. For now New South Wales has the key responsibility of removing obstructive legislative barriers, ensuring continuity of service is guaranteed and facilitating the smooth transfer of entities, employees and assets.

The bill is designed to ensure that this transition takes place in the most unobtrusive and seamless way for those currently receiving services and their families. I am pleased to note that that focus on a seamless transition is the number one priority of both the Government and the Minister. I applaud this vital approach. We know that around 140,000 people in this State will be participating in the scheme by 2018—this will include 50,000 people accessing support for the first time. We also know that from 2018 the National Disability Insurance Scheme will effectively see a doubling of funding currently provided for disability services in New South Wales to more than $6 billion per annum.

The bill provides for implementation arrangements to be made, which will include the capacity to establish corporate and other entities and package-up service delivery in a way that is appealing to everyone involved in the sector. The bill will also enable the transfer of the invaluable State disability workforce in a way so that people with disability can continue to be supported by the staff who support them now—people they know, trust and are comfortable with. As anyone who has spoken to individuals and families in these situations knows, these relationships are of critical importance, particularly when so many changes are already taking place and the normal routines to which they have become accustomed are being altered or challenged.

The bill will also offer protections to those staff moving into the disability sector, including the transfer of annual leave, sick leave and superannuation entitlements. Other protections can also be built into agreements with new employers, including employment guarantee periods. New South Wales wants to give existing staff the best possible start in the sector, which is obviously going to need tens of thousands of additional employees over the coming years. Last night the member for Sydney made an eloquent speech in this debate, but I was troubled by some of the issues he raised. I want to refute his explicit criticisms of the role of disability providers whose services and contributions are based on Christian principles. A diversity of choice at the individual level is fundamental to these reforms. I do not believe that we should be restricting or bureaucratising the role of non-government organisations.

In particular, I noted with concern that the member had heard reports of lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and intersex people being discriminated against and receiving unfair treatment from religious service providers. If the member for Sydney is aware of issues involving unlawful discrimination I encourage him to talk to the people involved and to bring those matters to the attention of the appropriate authorities. The member for Sydney also said that an Ageing, Disability and Home Care officer had given him a strong assurance that the Government will include provisions in all contracts for the transfer of disability care to prevent any form of discrimination against disability clients or staff.

Whilst I strongly endorse the member's comments in relation to unlawful discrimination, I note that provision of a contract which sought to undermine the existing exemptions allowing for religious freedoms by religious bodies would require legislative amendment. Obviously an illegal contract provision that sought to undermine a legislative protection would be vitiated. It would be void from the moment it was written. Importantly, contracts cannot undermine existing legislative protections. With such momentous, significant and somewhat emotional changes underway, I am pleased that we have such a competent and effective chief executive officer overseeing the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care and the passage of this entire process. Jim Longley is not only one of my predecessors, having served as the member for Pittwater between 1986 and 1996 and as a Minister in the Fahey Government, but also someone who has an in-depth knowledge of care and disability issues. Jim is genuinely passionate about reforms and long-term improvements in this sector.

The bill will enable State assets to be vested in organisations in ways that will enable them to be used most effectively for the delivery of disability and care services. Where these assets are land, such as the hundreds of group homes throughout New South Wales, the bill contains mechanisms in which to transfer them in a range of ways to safeguard the best interests of our State. I am fully aware that these are major, wide-reaching reforms. By the end of the transition period New South Wales will no longer provide or fund disability services in the traditional way. This is certainly significant and represents a major change. However, we will see these services provided by a range of specialist non-government providers.

Individuals will be free to choose where to direct their funding to purchase the services they want. We are fortunate to have some great non-government providers also operating in this sector. Those non-government providers will now be able to expand, diversify and focus their services to capture the increasing demand that will exist. Indeed, they will be able to use their unique histories and services to enable a greater range of choice than currently exits. Certainly with the expertise that I mentioned of the Chief Executive for Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Jim Longley, and under and the direction of the Minister for Disability Services, the Hon. John Ajaka, MLC, I am very confident in the process being undertaken. Along with all members of the House, I look forward to families throughout New South Wales beginning to benefit from what is not just a major investment of funds but also a complete rethink, realignment and reform of the way we look after and care for the most vulnerable in our community. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr TIM OWEN (Newcastle) [10.19 a.m.]: I make a short contribution to debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. We have heard from the previous Minister, Andrew Constance, and the current Minister, the Hon. John Ajaka, on this bill. I will not go into the detail of the legislation but suffice to say that it is designed to protect the fundamental human rights of people with a disability and to assist with the transfer from the current fragmented, broken, State-based system to one that puts the individual at the heart of decision-making. It is about choice and control.

We have started the National Disability Insurance Scheme trial in the Hunter, and some rather unfortunate comments and accusations have made about the commencement of the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme which relate in particular to the Stockton Centre. As both Ministers have mentioned, currently we pour between $2.7 billion and $2.9 billion into the National Disability Insurance Scheme which affords a level of service to about 90,000 people. By 2018 the State Government will be contributing $3.1 billion and the Federal Government will be contributing $3.3 billion for a total of $6.4 billion in New South Wales to assist of the order of 140,000 to 145,000 people with a disability. These are the most vulnerable people in our country and in our State.

Much of the commentary in Newcastle has centred around the Stockton Centre. As Andrew Constance made very clear yesterday and as Minister Ajaka has also made very clear, the National Disability Insurance Scheme does not in any way affect the commitments made to the families, the carers and, more importantly, the residents of the Stockton Centre. We made a commitment, as did the previous Labor Government, that we would engage very closely with each family on an individual basis to look at what their requirements would be as they move forward. We have always made it clear that the current facilities at Stockton are not up to standard. They do not meet the legal requirements for what we as the State Government are required to deliver for the most vulnerable in our society.

We have always made it very clear that we would look to redevelop the Stockton Centre and that the residents who wished to remain on site and their families would have the opportunity in each of their individual consultations to make that clear to us. I say again to the people of Newcastle that we have made a commitment to look at the Stockton Centre, to redevelop the Stockton Centre and to allow residents who wish to remain on site to do so in that redeveloped facility. There is a lot of work to do on this and there will be a lot of discussions and negotiations with individual residents and their families, but the commitment is there. It has never changed. It is unfortunate that a scare campaign has been whipped up to the effect that everybody will have to move and that the centre will close by 2018, et cetera.

These facilities will be redeveloped by 2018 but there has been no articulation from this Government that the centre will close—a point that I make clear for the people of Newcastle. To the residents of the Stockton Centre and their families and carers I say: We will work closely with you and we will deliver what you want. A huge amount of money will be available for these people, the most vulnerable in our society, to have control of and choice for their future, which I think is wonderful. We should all be rejoicing at what the National Disability Insurance Scheme brings to the table. For the first time ever in the history of this country people with severe disabilities will be on an equal footing with everybody else in our society, and that is nothing other than wonderful.

Mr CHRIS PATTERSON (Camden) [10.24 a.m.]: I support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. The implementation of this scheme will be undertaken by the independent statutory agency the National Disability Insurance Agency. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is to better the lives of people living with a significant and permanent disability, and their families and carers. People with a disability will now have far greater opportunities to live life how they choose as a result of this scheme. It is an insurance-based model of funding where people with a disability will be able to access and purchase the services they need. Currently funding is allocated to service providers. However, under the new scheme people will be given direct access to funding to administer themselves or through a broker should they choose to.

Something that people not living with a disability take for granted every day is the choice that they have in making decisions about how they receive support or services in any number of areas. I believe that Minister Ajaka hit the nail on the head by describing the scheme and its purpose as:
        … the promotion of a vibrant and competitive market of services and supports across communities in New South Wales that will need to respond to the desires and aspirations of people with disability and bring new approaches, innovation and flexibility to bear in how supports are arranged.

Minister Ajaka clearly summed up what this scheme will do and how it will impact positively on the lives of people with a disability. I acknowledge the efforts of Minister Ajaka. In the short time that he has been a Minister he has already been to my electorate and visited a couple of places that provide tremendous services. One in particular was Sunflower Cottage. It was great that the Minister could come and visit and bring a $20,000 cheque to help redo the playground. That will help Sunflower Cottage to continue to deliver the outstanding service it provides. I thank the Minister for his support for services in my electorate, particularly at such an early stage of being a Minister.

Changes through this scheme bring the single greatest investment in disability services in the history not only of New South Wales but also of Australia. This social insurance scheme addresses the need for a new, better coordinated funding model for people living with disabilities. It is recognised that this can be better achieved through a national approach rather than at a State level. This national scheme will provide individualised funding to people with a disability. I commend the Government for leading the way and being the first to sign up to the national scheme. The former Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, led the charge and signed up before any other State. I think that really shows the commitment of this Government to supporting this scheme and how much value it places on it. I commend Minister Constance for doing so. I also commend those opposite and their Federal counterparts for the bipartisan support that the scheme has received.

Mr Clayton Barr: It was our idea.

Mr CHRIS PATTERSON: This scheme is something that the entire Parliament understands and believes will help people with disabilities to live their lives. This is one of those schemes that everybody in this Chamber supports. That is a very positive thing. This bill provides the necessary framework to ensure the success of the scheme in New South Wales. Currently the National Disability Insurance Scheme is underway in the Hunter, and we have just had the member for Newcastle tell us a bit about that. We have received positive feedback on the outcomes for people using the scheme in that area. As part of New South Wales's commitment and transition to the scheme, it was agreed that we will no longer be a provider of specialist disability services or community care supports. This is because a redesign of the disability services sector is needed, moving away from government-directed services towards client-directed services. Non-government providers are often locally based and more responsive. They are best placed to respond to demand and will not restrict diversity and innovation in a growing market like a dominant public sector could.

I acknowledge the highly important work and the range of support that the Government and community sector agencies have provided to people with disabilities in New South Wales. Over the years the agencies have gathered an enormous wealth of knowledge and expertise in the provision of disability services. Staff will need to move or transfer to new employers, and this bill provides the mechanisms to protect employee entitlements including the transfer of sick leave, annual leave and superannuation entitlements. Employment guarantee periods can also be built into agreements. This bill and the changes it will bring will allow for holistic service delivery that is consistent with the National Disability Insurance Scheme approach. The bill provides for a smooth transition to the scheme and assets will be able to be vested to meet the sector's increased demand for services.

Feedback on this first stage of implementation will be important and it will be taken into account to ensure that the bill is meeting its objectives. The Minister and the Government have made it clear that this is an evolving scheme and any feedback and constructive criticism to improve the scheme would be welcome. This bill will bring control, choice and opportunity to those in our communities living with disabilities. It is important that we support this bill which will enable people with disabilities to live their lives in the way that they want to. The Government is proud of this bill and I commend Minister Ajaka for his work on it. The Minister would be the first to acknowledge his hardworking staff that he has mentioned to me on more than one occasion. He would like me to acknowledge and thank them for their efforts. Adam Zairth did an outstanding job in Health and has now become the Minister's chief of staff. He is a great asset. Alasdair Cameron, who is not on my upcoming preselection panel, is a bright young spark who does a great job. Warren Hudson, Nell Brown, Tina Daniels and Chelsea Collington also do outstanding work in the Minister's office. It is good to give credit where credit it is due. It would be appreciated if the member for Balmain gave the Government a bit more credit for its achievements. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) [10.33 a.m.]: I appreciate the Coalition Government's support for this important Labor initiative. The Government is trying to steal the glory now that the rubber is hitting the road but it was dragged kicking and screaming into signing up to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The veracity of that claim can be checked by reading the comments of Prime Minister Tony Abbott during the original debate on this issue. The object of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 is to authorise and facilitate the transfer of the State's public sector disability service assets in connection with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We need to know a number of things from the outset of this debate, the first of which is that Labor is extremely proud of the scheme and the opportunities it will bring.

The bipartisan support that now exists for this concept was based on some fairly broad brushstrokes. Some grander, big picture concepts were part of the discussion when the scheme was first touted; however, we are now at the pointy end and broad brushstrokes no longer suffice. We need significant, complete and complex detail about the entire scheme and not just the current Newcastle rollout. Much has been said about the rollout of the scheme in the Hunter and one could be forgiven for thinking that the scheme is broadly available in the whole region. The Hunter comprises 11 local government areas and the reality is that it is not available in all of them. In the 2013-14 financial year it is available only in the Newcastle local government area. In 2014-15 it will be available in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. In 2015-16 Maitland will be added to the areas in which the scheme is available and Cessnock will be added in 2017-18. Beyond 2018 it will be rolled out across the State and country.

It must be made clear that when we talk about the Hunter in this debate today we are specifically talking about the rollout in Newcastle. Constituents in the Cessnock electorate will not be able to access the scheme for three or four years. Because the pointy end of the legislation is directed only at Newcastle for now, the current concerns are Newcastle-centric. One area of concern is the Stockton Centre, which has been mentioned in this Chamber. Members have commented on the current condition of the centre, its future and potential funding for redevelopment. I acknowledge the contribution by the member for Newcastle to whom I spoke yesterday about the Stockton Centre. I also note the introductory remarks by the Minister for Finance and Services, Andrew Constance, representing the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services.

I have had many discussions and briefings and undertaken a lot of background reading but I still do not understand how the Stockton Centre redevelopment will be paid for. As I understand it, there is no bucket of money available for infrastructure. The National Disability Insurance Scheme money is attached to the clients, who are the people with disabilities. We may talk about redeveloping the Stockton Centre but I am not sure where the dollars will come from and I would appreciate an explanation from the Minister in his speech in reply. My understanding of how infrastructure redevelopment would work under the scheme is that if 150 clients were based at Stockton and significant redevelopment was required each of those clients would be asked to make a contribution towards the cost. If it were necessary to spend $15 million or $20 million the clients might be asked to contribute $10,000 or $15,000 each from their funding. It is my understanding that there is no money for infrastructure. The funding provided through the scheme is personal money that belongs to each client. I would like the Minister to clarify this matter in his reply.

Some staff who live in the Cessnock electorate have contacted me about the rollout. They have concerns around the transfer of conditions, which has been spoken of ad nauseam during this debate. I will impart to the House the information I have on what is currently being rolled out to staff. The heads of agreement, which were negotiated, signed off and agreed to by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, and the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, are effective from 1 July 2018. The significance of that is that during the rollout between today in 2013 and 30 June 2018, there will be enormous uncertainty for staff about the transfer of the conditions. When staff who contacted my office asked the question, the response they were given was, "We don't know the answer to that. We cannot give you any assurances or guarantees because the heads of agreement are ineffective from 1 July 2018.

Mr Christopher Gulaptis: That is five years away.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: Across the Hunter staff who will be transferred out of Disability Services potentially tomorrow and the next day will have complete uncertainty about whether their terms and conditions of employment will be transferred.

Mr Christopher Gulaptis: What are you doing five years from now?

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I acknowledge the interjection by the member for Clarence because he has been through a process whereby public servants lost their working conditions. He knows that creates significant uncertainty and significant discomfort for workers and their families. We must acknowledge that. What will happen in relation to the transfer of conditions for workers? They want to stay in the sector, they want to work in disabilities, and they willingly and happily will transfer to a private operator, provided that the conditions are transferred with them. I think that is pretty reasonable. I ask the Minister to address that issue also during his reply and explain exactly how that will roll out on the ground.

Another concern of the staff is whether or not the level and qualifications for staff under the non-government sector or the private sector will be at the same standard as is currently expected in the government sector today. I think that is a pretty reasonable question as well. If there is one thing we know about privatisation, it is that sometimes the way to save money is on staffing. That might mean less skilled people or fewer people on the ground. These are reasonable questions. As I said, in broad terms we can all agree with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but we need some details around the practicalities. Another issue that we should be checking on is permanency versus casual employment. Frequently in this House we speak about housing affordability and people being able to own their own home. We all realise and appreciate that it is very difficult to obtain a home loan if the applicant does not have permanent employment and an income. It also is a fairly reasonable concern.

Another concern that has been raised by staff is the fact that families of disabled people will have greater access to the funds owned by disabled people. While we would all like to think that all families do the very best with the money that is made available for their son or daughter who is a family member with a disability, in reality that is not always the case. An example cited to me was a family who wanted to access a client's money to take the dog to the veterinarian to have the dog healed or treated. The family of the disabled person argued that it was reasonable because the disabled person really loved the dog and the dog brought great warmth and joy to the disabled person's life. I do not know whether taking a dog to the veterinarian is a reasonable use of a disabled person's money. Another example concerns having the inside of the house painted because that would improve the life of the disabled person.

Another example is getting a new car. Arguably it may be justified if it is a disability access car and it could accommodate a wheelchair, but what if it is not? What if the car is just a sedan and not compatible with a wheelchair? These are the types of issues that an extreme minority of families use to apply for funding. Checks and balances must be in place. In conclusion, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a great scheme. We agreed to it in broad terms, but now we are getting down to the details in Newcastle and that process will be widened throughout the Hunter in the next few years. We need to have those checks and balances. It is reasonable for me to ask the questions I have posed and it is reasonable for the Minister to address those concerns during his reply. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr MARK SPEAKMAN (Cronulla—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.43 a.m.]: I support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013, which will facilitate the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in New South Wales. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a historic reform shared between New South Wales and the Commonwealth. It will result in an additional 50,000 people in New South Wales receiving government support for the first time as funding more than doubles by 2018. Central to the campaign to instigate the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia was the right for people with disability to choose their supports and control their own funding. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is the outcome of a long and hard struggle by individuals, families, carers and their supporters. The New South Wales Government is determined to honour its commitment to provide choice to people with disabilities instead of people with disability having to fit the services offered to them.

Last year the Government committed to the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme with the first launch site to be in the Hunter. On 1 July this year, the National Disability Insurance Scheme was launched in the Hunter. Full transition to the Commonwealth system will be completed by mid-2018. By the end of the transition period New South Wales will no longer provide or fund disability services or basic community care supports. Instead, those services will be provided by a range of specialist non-government providers, and individuals will be free to choose where to direct their funding to purchase the services they want. This enormous growth in client demand also will require an additional workforce of approximately 25,000 people across New South Wales.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 aims to remove some legislative barriers that would prevent a smooth transition of services to the non-government sector in a way that maintains continuity of services and minimises the liabilities for the State. The current legislation precludes many essential components required for that transition, such as the direction to transfer employees to other entities and the disposal of group home assets. The bill contains measures that the Government may need to complete the reform. I emphasise that the Government is empowered, but not compelled, to use those measures. The bill will enable the establishment of parameters for current services, assets and staff to transition into the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It also will enable a broad range of functions, including creating corporate entities, arrangements for staff and assets and vesting rights and liabilities by way of order.

The bill will enable the Government to enter into an agreement with the private sector entity under which the employment of staff can be transferred, recognising current staff provisions and the need to maintain expertise in the sector for continuity of support for people with disability. In response to the observations made by the member for Cessnock about continuity and security of employment for workers in this sector and their terms and conditions of employment, it is important to note that demand for skilled disability support staff is high and that opportunities for employees will be increasing. The National Disability Insurance Scheme in New South Wales will create an additional 25,000 jobs. People who are working in that sector currently have a promising future. So far as terms and conditions are concerned, it is important to note that we are operating in an environment in which Commonwealth legislation binds new employers to recognise State industrial instruments for transferring employees.

The bill will enable the maintenance of certain entitlements and award conditions on transfer and for detailed negotiations with new employers to be reflected in agreements. The best protection for workers and their terms and conditions is not excessive regulation but, rather, the strength they have that derives from the high demand for their services. What protects their terms and conditions is the high demand for their services. I hope that will give some comfort in relation to concerns raised by the member for Cessnock. The bill will enable vesting orders to be made in relation to assets, rights and liabilities. That will provide vital resources and infrastructure to the sector to enable the growth required for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Of the assets in the Disability Services portfolio, approximately 480 residential properties are currently used for supported accommodation. The bill will allow them to be vested by order to appropriate entities, which may include other parts of government, the community housing sector, non-government organisation disability providers and private sector organisations. The bill has mechanisms that are necessarily flexible to enable the transition of a wide range of services in a way that promotes the best outcomes for people with disability in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [10.48 a.m.]: On behalf of The Greens, I address the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 which is before the House. The bill already has been passed by the upper House of the State Parliament with the support of The Greens, and I will support the bill in this place. However, I will take some time to outline some of the potential risks and some of the concerns that have been expressed to me by parents and carers of people with a disability as well as by staff who work currently in the public sector but who will be transferred to the non-government sector. As we know, this bill provides the legislative framework for the Government to transfer disability service employees and assets to the non-government sector or other public sector agencies, including the Commonwealth, as part of the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. By the end of the transition period, in July 2018, it is anticipated that depending upon demand the New South Wales Government will no longer provide or fund disability services, so there will be a complete exit of the New South Wales Government from the disability sector. This bill enables the development of transfer processes that allow continuity of services and staffing. That is the aim of the bill. We have heard members talk about the fact that we are now dealing with the detail in the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and, as we know, the devil is often in the detail.

I congratulate—and I am sure all members congratulate—those individuals who care for a child or young person because, frankly, they have to be fighters. In my electorate many people who have children or who care for children with disabilities are activists by nature of the fact that they have children with such high needs. These activists or fighters are one of the reasons for the introduction of this legislation, which we all support. The rollout has started in four launch sites and, as announced, the O'Farrell Government was the first State Government to sign on to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, committing $3.1 billion, with the Federal Government providing $3.3 billion. We have all heard about the positive aspects of this bill. My job in this place is to examine the detail—the potential risks and concerns. One concern I have is that the bill enables the Minister for Disability Services to transfer State sector disability services assets and employees to the non-government sector. The heads of agreement between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales governments signed by Premier O'Farrell and Prime Minister Gillard included:
      33. Following commencement of the full NDIS, the NSW Government will not provide any residual specialist disability services or basic community care services.

For more than 12,000 of the 14,000 people employed by Ageing, Disability and Home Care [ADHC], entitlements such as long service leave and superannuation will be preserved, but other employment guarantees such as permanency will be negotiated. That is causing some concern amongst staff in this sector. I will outline a number of reasons why I think this needs to be highlighted as a concern. We know that full privatisation, or the exit of the government sector from disability service provision, is not compulsory; it is not critical to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Productivity Commission inquiry report entitled, "Disability Care and Support" and dated July 2013 explicitly identified a role for State provision. At page 18 under the section headed, "What would it mean for the States and Territories", which refers to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the report states:
      The potential to continue as service providers—but on a competitively neutral basis with other providers.

According to the Minister's second reading speech:
      For the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be truly innovative and responsive to the needs of people with disability, the non-Government sector needs to grow and flourish.

Of course the non-government sector needs to grow and flourish, but this ignores the potential for the government sector to be innovative and responsive. We have a fantastic government sector with a number of committed staff members who are doing the right thing by the people for whom they care. This statement does not justify the complete privatisation of public provision. It ignores the ability of the non-government sector to grow and flourish in a mixed public and community sector. I will highlight three or four risks that I see in these steps and urge the Government to consider these matters carefully. There is no evidence that denial of public sector choice will improve outcomes for people with disability. The bill is designed to bring to an end the option of public sector provision. That is, in a sense, reducing the choice of people involved in this sector to have exclusive non-government engagement. We heard the Minister state the following:
      For the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be truly innovative and responsive to the needs of people with disability, the non-government sector needs to grow and flourish. I will take a moment to explain why this is necessary: non-government organisations are mainly inclusive, participatory and quality-focused, and they have the capacity to generate social capital in a way that government and the private sector cannot. That social capital is critical to maximising advantages for people with disability and other vulnerable groups.

That undermines the efforts of the 14,000 public sector workers who are involved in this sector and who, in my view, do a sterling job. The Minister has not mounted a case that the public sector needs to be dismantled in order for a diverse non-government sector to develop. Obviously, significant disruption will happen. I have been contacted by two families in particular. One family has a child with high and complex needs. Those family members have spent a great deal of time trying to find the right place for their son. They are happy with the provider which is funded through the New South Wales Government and they do not want to see a change. They have been through a traumatic and difficult period. This will cause significant disruption as some 40 per cent of disability services recipients will move to new providers—an issue that must be managed carefully and with respect to all those involved.

With the exit of the public sector under these provisions there is no provider of last resort. While non-government providers are subject to business failures and unpredictable changes in policy and direction, public providers have in the past provided a base of certainty that enables clients to explore new delivery, secure in the knowledge that they can access a public provider if things do not work out. This will not be the case in the future. It also is clear that while public sector agencies can take risk, there is underlying certainty of continuity in the public sector, which benefits people with a disability. There also is concern about the thin market problem. We know in economics that is something that is obvious in rural and regional areas where the provision of services in the non-government sector is not very robust and the government sector does the heavy lifting. That is something that needs to be radically changed under these proposals as there are people with complex needs. We know that the complexity of some people's needs might not match the capabilities of non-government service providers. That is a challenge that must be addressed. I am aware of the Stockton issues where a variety of State services are collated in one residential setting. It appears that the longevity and health of many of the residents—and I am sure we have all heard those stories—stem directly from the accumulation of expertise and learning, and the availability of on-site health, dental, occupational and psychological services. This model is unlikely to be replicated in the non-government sector, which typically does not bring together a range of different services under one management. Cooperative arrangements between different non-government service providers will require time and effort to develop and may not be within the organisational capacity of many community organisations. This is a challenge.

We support the direction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but the exit of the public sector leaves us with a number of concerns. In South Australia the public sector has not completely exited the market. In South Australia government disability services will continue. The evidence in South Australia—which is obviously a different market—demonstrates that it is not compulsory or necessary for the public sector to withdraw. In addition to the issues I have raised about parents and carers of people with disability, I have been approached by staff members who work in the government sector who are concerned that pay in the non-government sector is significantly less than it is in the public sector. While their conditions are protected, there is concern about downward pressure on wages and conditions in future as their forced transfer to a new employer might bring with it in the long term the lower rates and conditions that are present in the non-government sector.

In conclusion, concern was expressed in the other place about the speed with which this bill was introduced and the lack of consultation. The parents with whom I have been dealing in my local electorate are vulnerable—people who struggle every day with the complex needs of their children who try to get good services and conditions. It is incumbent on this Government to proceed through this process carefully, slowly and diligently, especially in light of the fact that the State is exiting from service provision—a dramatic change and something about which I am very concerned. I would prefer it if the public sector remained in the mix, but I understand that is not the aim of the Government. I will be supporting this bill.

Mr CHRIS HOLSTEIN (Gosford) [10.58 a.m.]: I support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. I commend Minister Ajaka and, most definitely, his predecessor Minister Constance on their great work. Late last year New South Wales was the first State to sign up to the National Disability Insurance Scheme [NDIS] through a heads of agreement with the Commonwealth Government. This bill enables New South Wales to begin the process to ensure the success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme for those in our community with disabilities. Essentially, the bill lays down a platform over the next five years to give people with disabilities uninterrupted support as they migrate to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, encourage skilled people to remain working in disability services and strengthen the capacity of the disability service sector to transfer buildings, equipment and other assets. The bill enables the Government to put in place a range of possible options for transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme without committing the Government to any particular option.

The evolution and transition to a National Disability Insurance Scheme will result in placing in the hands of people with disability real choice and control over the supports they need to live the life they want. The scheme will benefit approximately 140,000 people with disability in New South Wales by enabling them to plan their individual funding packages to purchase supports based on an assessment of their capacity and, most definitely, their circumstances. By 2018 the New South Wales Government will spend $3.1 billion each year on the National Disability Insurance Scheme along with the Commonwealth's annual spend of $3.3 billion, equating to a total funding package of $6.4 billion. The scheme was launched in the Hunter area this year and will result in approximately 10,000 people accessing it over the coming three years. This enables the Government to design a steady-as-she-goes approach as part of a progressive rollout across the remainder of the State from July 2016.

Importantly, all policy and operational parameters will be established, tested and confirmed prior to the full State rollout. Our Government is contributing $585 million to this first-stage rollout. Early feedback is encouraging in that most processes seem to be working, but the next three years is the time for finer tuning. However, importantly, for the first time people with disability will have a choice and control over their support needs rather than continuing the prescriptive nature of services. This new approach will deliver many benefits, including a more competitive and vibrant sector in service and supports across New South Wales communities as they respond to the needs of the disability sector and the introduction of the choice model.

This shift from a prescriptive approach to one of choice and control is monumental and will herald a cultural change from those who service the disability sector into the future. New South Wales has a wide and diverse non-government sector numbering in the thousands that caters to the disability and community care area. I take this opportunity to mention several organisations in my area. No greater example of a fine organisation dealing with people with disabilities on the Central Coast is there than Coastlink, led by chief executive officer Lynne Rainford and her fine team. We have also the legendary Fairhaven Services, which has operated for decades under the outstanding effort of chief executive officer Jim Buultjens and his team. The Central Coast Disability Network and many others in the area provide services and assist those in our community with disabilities. All of these organisations are embracing the change through the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Being in close contact with their local communities, these organisations have the ability to be innovative and risk taking.

The Government can and will support these organisations to enable them to access a skilled and experienced workforce to achieve the innovation people crave. From 2018 New South Wales will hand over responsibility to the National Disability Insurance Agency for sector development and support funding. This will mean that the existing State service capacity, workforce and expertise will be placed in the hands of the non-government sector and reinvested in the marketplace for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be successful. The key purpose of the bill is to provide for this transfer through three clear objectives: first, to ensure that the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme delivers maximum continuity of services for people with disability as they make decisions about their future; secondly, to promote the retention of a skilled disability services workforce; and, thirdly, to maximise the capacity of the disability service sector. The bill has been drafted to provide flexibility in the transactions required to implement the move to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr GUY ZANGARI (Fairfield) [11.04 a.m.]: I contribute to the debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. The object of the bill is to authorise and facilitate the transfer of the State's public sector disability services assets in connection with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme of the Commonwealth. The bill makes detailed arrangements also for the transfer of the employment and entitlements of public sector disability services employees. Presently the non-government disability sector delivers approximately 60 per cent of all disability support services within this State. New South Wales already has invested heavily through the Industry Development Fund to these non-government offices to ensure the sector has the skills and capacity to operate the existing government-run services. Considering the magnitude of the services being provided, it makes sense for the Government to confer more support on the non-government sector to help alleviate the burden on any one agency and to ensure that disabled individuals within our State receive the highest quality care possible.

Clauses 5 and 6 of part 1 of the bill set out and authorise the transfer of assets from the public sector agencies to non-government agencies or to any other public sector agency. This section also confers the power upon the Minister to subsequently provide financial assistance to a person in the non-government sector to whom disability services assets are transferred for the purposes of the authorised implementation. Transferring services to the non-government sector has been underway for over a decade and so far non-government agencies have proved themselves capable of handling and even improving these services. An absolute priority is to ensure that high-quality care and ongoing support services are made available for individuals in our State. Under the former Labor Government, all Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care day programs were shifted to the non-government sector, which was viewed as widely successful, resulting in the delivery of quality, innovative and person-oriented support services throughout New South Wales. I am glad that another fantastic Labor policy, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, has been adopted by the New South Wales Government and that those in need of disability services across our State will receive the assistance they require.

Mr Christopher Gulaptis: Funded by the Coalition.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! I call the member for Clarence to order for the first time.

Mr Clayton Barr: Funded by the taxpayer.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! I call the member for Cessnock to order for the first time.

Mr GUY ZANGARI: The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a landmark piece of legislation that will start the rollout of a plethora of support services that will ensure anyone with a disability in New South Wales will have more options in more locations and support services readily available to assist them. This transition will pave the way for newer, innovative services to be implemented throughout our local communities, which in turn will significantly benefit disabled individuals in this State. According to the 2011 Census data, approximately 9.1 per cent of individuals in my electorate of Fairfield require help in their day-to-day lives—a significant increase from the 2006 Census data. The growth of disability support services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be an enormous boon for those with a disability in my electorate as their lives will be better sooner rather than later.

The implementation of this legislation and the subsequent range of readily available disability support services throughout this State can only bode well for the disabled residents of New South Wales. I have mentioned previously in this Chamber the wonderful workers and, of course, volunteers at the Australian Foundation for Disability [AFFORD] in Canley Vale. I have had the wonderful opportunity on many occasions to visit this marvellous organisation and meet many of its clients. The member for Menai nods in agreement because she too understands the vital work that the Australian Foundation for Disability does not only in my electorate but around New South Wales. The Australian Foundation for Disability is a champion organisation doing great work, particularly to better its Canley Vale facilities through funding from the Community Building Partnerships program. I take my hat off to the wonderful people at the Australian Foundation for Disability in Canley Vale and those providing disability support services across New South Wales. They do a wonderful job in supporting our constituents who have disabilities. I support the bill.

Ms MELANIE GIBBONS (Menai) [11.10 a.m.]: I am pleased to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. As someone who worked in the disability sector for a few years, I had the opportunity to meet ordinary families who had children living with a disability: mums and dads who were making sacrifices in their careers, their budgets or their social lives to provide help for their son or daughter who required more care than most children. Some parents had to give up full-time work to become full-time carers for their children because there was no other way to afford the level of care. Even if they could afford the care, it often was not available at the level they needed or did not have the scope they required.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is Australia's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get it right. We still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful because I believe that the scheme will be the first step in giving some of our nation's most vulnerable the support and care they deserve. I have seen firsthand the urgent need for the scheme. I believe people with a disability, their families and carers have waited for far too long. In New South Wales, the Liberals and Nationals already are getting on with the job of personalising service delivery. We have to be ready to go when the National Disability Insurance Scheme is introduced. That is why we are starting to reform the disability sector and improve service delivery to people with a disability and their carers.

Led by our Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services, the Hon. John Ajaka, the Government is committed to empowering people with a disability and allowing them to pick and choose the services they want, rather than being dictated to about the services they can have and the organisations that will provide them. This is a basic human right. This bill provides an opportunity for New South Wales to seize the growing momentum of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and take steps to ensure this generational reform can meet its full potential. For far too long, people with disability have had to fit into the services offered to them, without the power to direct how those supports should be delivered. The National Disability Insurance Scheme builds upon the work being done at State level to redesign this system and represents the greatest single investment in disability in history at both the State and Commonwealth levels.

I thank my colleagues across the floor for their contribution to this historic reform. I also thank all those whose commitment to change has brought about this scheme. It will mean that, more than ever before, a person with disability will have far greater opportunities to live the life they want and make a real and meaningful contribution to their community. The National Disability Insurance Scheme launch is underway in the Hunter. Only four months in, there are already reports of the scheme bringing about positive outcomes for people in the way they live their lives. This will increase as the launch phase continues. The transition to the scheme across the rest of the State is to take place between 2016 and 2018. By mid-2018 the Commonwealth will have full responsibility for administering the scheme, through the National Disability Insurance Agency.

It was agreed when New South Wales committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme in December last year that once the scheme was fully in force New South Wales would no longer be a provider of specialist disability services or community care supports. I understand that this was for a number of reasons, but the most relevant is that the non-government organisation [NGO] sector can do it better. The diverse range of non-government organisations in New South Wales is often locally based, more responsive and able to be more innovative than government providers. New South Wales must do all it can to boost the valuable non-government sector so that it, in turn, can deliver the best supports to people with disability within a competitive market. The bill before the House aims to do just that.

The transfer of the New South Wales government service capacity to alternative providers will be crucial to ensuring the sector has the capacity to meet demand, which is expected to expand from 90,000 people currently supported in New South Wales to 140,000 by mid-2018. More than that, the measures in the bill are designed to ensure that this transition takes place in a way that is seamless for those people currently receiving services. This is the Government's number one priority. When I worked at TAD Disability Services, we were always being told that it was difficult to secure funding for disability equipment, particularly for equipment that was not deemed necessary or therapeutic. Families were often forced to turn to community fundraising to pay for equipment such as modified bikes, which were seen as non-essential but were incredibly beneficial recreational items. This is not right. Each piece of equipment has a cost, and each therapist, specialist and respite program has a cost. Having a disability is not cheap.

The bill provides for implementation arrangements to be made that include the capacity to establish corporate and other entities and to package service delivery in a way that is appealing to the sector. It enables the transfer of the invaluable State disability workforce in a way that means that people with disability can continue to be supported by the staff that support them now. These relationships are of critical importance, particularly when so many changes already are taking place. The bill also offers protections to those staff moving into the disability sector, including the transfer of annual leave, sick leave and superannuation entitlements. Other protections can be built into agreements with new employers, including employment guarantee periods. New South Wales wants to give staff the best start in the sector, which is going to need thousands more people over the coming years.

The bill enables State assets to be vested in organisations in ways that enable them to be used most effectively for the delivery of services. Where these assets are land based, such as group homes, the bill contains mechanisms to transfer these assets in a range of ways and to safeguard the interests of the State. Sweeping change is underway in the disability sector, which will mean that people with disability in New South Wales and throughout the country will have far greater opportunities than ever before. As a local member, I am happy to offer any advice I can to the sector. Last week, the Minister for Disability Services, the Hon. John Ajaka, and I met with Disability South West to talk about that organisation's needs now and in the future as it transitions to the scheme. I also met with the Autism Advisory and Support Service and the Young Adults Disabled Association to discuss the support that they will need during the transition phase. I urge members to support this bill to enable New South Wales and the disability sector to deliver the best outcomes for people under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I thank the staff, the boards and the volunteers of all the organisations involved. I support the bill and commend it to the House.

Mr PAUL TOOLE (Bathurst—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.17 a.m.]: I am proud to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. This bill is necessary to enable New South Wales to take its first steps towards ensuring the success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme for people with disability in our community. This agreement represents a historic milestone for people with disability and their families and carers not only in New South Wales but throughout this country. It establishes the means by which to deliver equitable and adequate support for people with disability, many of whom have struggled for so long without access to the support they need to live with dignity and respect.

The agreement places real choice and control in the hands of people with disability. The reforms will be delivered through a partnership between New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government and will benefit approximately 140,000 people with disability in New South Wales. The New South Wales commitment of $3.1 billion will enable people with disability to plan individual funding packages to purchase supports, based on an assessment of their capacity and circumstances. In addition, the Commonwealth will provide $3.3 billion, making the total funding $6.4 billion. When I speak to families and individuals on this topic, one of the biggest issues for them is the minefield that has to be navigated to obtain the necessary support. Many families and individuals find it difficult to get the right package. They have to go to different departments and organisations, and getting the necessary support can be a long and arduous trial.

This new insurance scheme will ensure that those with a disability can receive a package that is best suited to their needs. It is a wonderful improvement and I am pleased it has bipartisan support. The scheme will benefit not only New South Wales but also the entire country. The National Disability Insurance Scheme will allow people with disability to have choice and control over their support services. It will lead to more positive outcomes. Already a suite of support is provided by a diverse disability and community care non-government sector, from small, local volunteer-organised services to large and complex non-government providers.

If the National Disability Insurance Scheme is to be truly innovative and responsive to the needs of people with disability, the non-government sector needs to grow and flourish because non-government organisations are mainly inclusive, participatory and focused on quality. They have the capacity to generate social capital in a way that the government and private sectors cannot. Social capital is critical to maximise advantages for people with disability and other vulnerable groups. Thousands of non-government organisations across New South Wales provide an economic and social benefit. A government service is more conservative, whereas non-government organisations can take risks and influence the views of the community and government about the people they support, leading to greater inclusion, acceptance and transfer of knowledge.

The New South Wales Government has an obligation to people who are currently supported. It should do everything within its power to enable them to engage with the National Disability Insurance Scheme so they have every opportunity to make real choices about their future and not be constrained by the current models of support. From 2018 New South Wales will no longer provide or fund disability or community care support. The National Disability Insurance Agency will take over responsibility for the development of the sector and the funding of support. This means that the knowledge and expertise of the existing State service needs to be placed in the hands of the non-government sector and reinvested in the marketplace for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to succeed. This bill paves the way for its future.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme supports 90,000 people with disability in New South Wales. It provides services that include supported accommodation in group homes, respite centres, therapy services and community-based support. The staff at these facilities who take on the role of working with people with a disability and their families and carers are special people who do a magnificent job. This bill indicates the biggest investment in the provision of disability services, from State-directed support to self-directed support. This issue is above politics. Its aim is to provide the best assistance to those who are most vulnerable. The Government has worked in a bipartisan way with the Commonwealth to get the best deal for people with disabilities and their carers. This is an historic outcome that continues the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government's record of reform in social services. It is an investment in the future of the provision of disability services and, more importantly, the future of people with disability in our community as a whole. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr JONATHAN O'DEA (Davidson) [11.24 a.m.]: The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 allows a transition to occur to ensure that people with disabilities in New South Wales can participate fully in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This legislation empowers people with disabilities to have choice and control over the services and support they need to pursue their own direction in life. It requires services to be provided on the basis of meeting individual needs of people with disabilities, which is the core aim of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is a move from a fragmented State-based system to one that is national and much better funded and from which obstacles are removed to enable people to more easily reach their potential in life.

The disability sector in New South Wales will grow, with annual funding to be increased from $2.5 billion to more than $6 billion when the National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully rolled out in 2018. However, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is not only about a welcome financial injection. The reform promotes an innovative, flexible and tailored injection to each individual. Although there will be change for many employees, and change is never easy, there should be no shortage of future employment opportunities in the sector. As John Della Bosca, former New South Wales Minister and campaign director for Every Australian Counts stated, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is designed to shift choice and control for people with disabilities and their families and this requires a market with diverse disability services.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme reform will result in changing service patterns, including a shift from the public sector to non-government providers. Accordingly, skilled employees should be able to transfer to non-government organisations from the public sector and potentially maintain the continuity of caring relationships while at the same time having their employment conditions appropriately protected. Having said that, it is also important that government liability is reasonably controlled. As the Minister in the other place has indicated, the movement of services will be carefully thought out following detailed scoping, investigation and examination of the best options for people with disability, the current workforce and the sector at large. This approach to prudent progress is warranted and admirable. The bill also builds the capacity and flexibility of the disability services sector by making it possible to transfer buildings, equipment and other assets.

The Public Accounts Committee, which I chair, recently tabled a report of the NSW Audit Office which called on the New South Wales Government to extend the Auditor-General's performance audit functions to non-government agencies when performing functions on behalf of the State. The National Disability Insurance Scheme and its broader reforms and trends towards outsourcing various other community services make this recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee even more important. Finally, I pay my respect to those who work in Ageing, Disability and Home Care and to those who have worked hard to establish and implement the new National Disability Insurance Scheme. This extends to leaders, past and present, across the political divide. It also includes people in my own electorate such as Sue O'Reilly and Katrina Clarke. Much remains to be done. I continue to support those who do the heavy lifting, as I have tried to do in the past. I commend the bill to the House.

Ms SONIA HORNERY (Wallsend) [11.30 a.m.]: I thank the Government for giving me the opportunity to speak in debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. This is one of the most important bills that Parliament has dealt with this year. For me, one of the main incentives in becoming a member of Parliament was to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable in our society were represented along with the needs of others. I agree with the National Disability Insurance Scheme principles of choice and equal rights for people living with disabilities. However, I have serious concerns about some aspects of the bill that put at risk the rights of government workers and the quality of care of members of the disability community. The bill may cause unnecessary fear for family members and parents of residents at the Stockton, Kanangra and Tomaree centres.

I have had a lot of involvement with workers, clients and their families. The number one message I hear time and time again is that people are afraid. They feel that the Government is railroading them; they are not being heard. Enough politicians have had their say on this matter; we need to hear more from those whom this bill will affect. I take this opportunity to read into Hansard two excerpts from interviews conducted by my office with disability workers over the past few weeks. The first is from an interview with Michael Grant, a hardworking nurse at the Stockton Centre. He said:
        Unfortunately, what they're doing is devolving this model of care. The model of care that these clients have is the best that can be there for them. They have medical needs, all sorts of medical needs. They have seizures all the time … eating and drinking problems … sleep problems … behaviour problems … all the problems under the sun that most people in their life time would never come across. Unfortunately, without the specialised care that these guys are gonna need they're gonna go to the community and get someone with a licence and a first aid certificate.

The information [about the Stockton Centre], they use is old information. The information they use is mostly from overseas and in the past there were institutions, there were asylums as John Ryan said. Nowadays, look at the model we have now. We have a bunch of people who look after clients in a caring, interested, involved way …that's the model they should be developing. Unfortunately, because of the public's unawareness of the way things have changed in the last 10 or 15 years. Maybe 20 years. In that time things have changed so much.

One of the good things that's happened is the Stockton Centre went from being a hospital, which is a "get out of my space" kind of environment to a situation where you ask the client, you look at the client, you identify what the client needs. At Stockton, the client educates us.

Really what they need to realise now is this is a community. It is not an institution. It is a gated community. They're becoming common practice. Lots of people live in them. Why can't these people?


The next interview was conducted with an Ageing, Disability and Home Care worker who was very concerned that I not use their name for fear of their being reprimanded for speaking out. The worker said:
        All our group homes are 24 hour staffed. So they have active shifts 24 hours a day. That is because some clients have high medical needs and they need to be checked regularly through the night. For example they may have epilepsy, they may need to be turned, they may be at risk of choking. It could be someone with dementia who wanders through the night.

Under ADHC we currently have an active night shift. So you come in on an afternoon shift where you start at 3pm [and] go home at 11pm, the next shift comes in at 11pm and works through to the morning, so there is always someone on duty.

The non-government sector does not pay active night shift. They have what's called a sleep over shift. Which works like this: I work on the afternoon shift I get paid 8 hours, they then have a bed in that house that staff can sleep in, so then I go to bed in that house at 11. I may have to get up one or two times in a night for a client. For that I get an allowance. You stay there til 7 in the morning and then you go home. You get a $35 allowance. You come back for the next afternoon shift. For that 8 hours from 11 til 7 you're not paid. It is called a sleep over shift.

Who wants to work for 16 hours and get paid for 8? And then there's the whole issue of client risk as well. We have active shifts because the clients need us …

      This enabling bill is handing [us] over, lock stock and barrel—ADHC care centres, the clients and the staff. They're not going to be able to maintain current conditions. There's going to be a mass exodus of staff. As a staff member I don't want to go and work for a non-government organisation. I have a passion for the ladies I work with. I'm worried about them. I am worried about what's going to happen to them.

The quality of care provided at the Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra centres is second to none. Their highly qualified staff are kind and respectful. I am very proud that in the Hunter community, and in my Wallsend electorate, we have the calibre of the staff who work at the Stockton Centre—from the plumbers to the general service support staff, nurses and other clinicians. I take my hat off to you all.

Before I conclude I seek a response from the Government to the following vital questions on behalf of the community, residents and staff at the Stockton, Kanangra and Tomaree centres. Will the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services confirm that Stockton will remain open after 2018—we want that in writing—and in what capacity? Will the residents who choose to remain at the Stockton Centre be permitted to do so? Part 4 of the bill deals with the transfer and vesting of assets and that includes "six large residential centres". What will happen to the Stockton Centre? The next question reiterates the concern expressed by the member for Cessnock: When will funding be provided for the potential redevelopment of Stockton and from which budget? What are the details of the capital works involved?

How will the Government ensure that a high quality of care will continue with non-government organisations who pay their staff—as members well know—significantly less? They do not require the same qualifications as those in the public sector and, unfortunately, some are profit driven. How will the Government ensure that the individual rights of people with disabilities are protected—especially if a religious organisation is given a contract of work? What if the values of the religious organisation do not coincide with those of the person with disability? I will be voting in support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 as a starting point. This is the very first step. But in moving forward it is our responsibility to look seriously at the issues being raised by those at the coal face and to work with current disability workers, clients and families to develop policy that best serves those who are most in need in our community.

Mrs ROZA SAGE (Blue Mountains) [11.37 a.m.]: I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a contribution in support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. I was extremely surprised and dismayed by the comments of the member for Wallsend because my involvement with the disability sector in my electorate is completely different from hers. The majority of disability providers in my area are non-government organisations. They are qualified professionals and do a brilliant job. The time has come for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and those with a disability are looking forward to it keenly. When I talk to people with a disability, their families and carers in my electorate they convey to me the sentiment that they want that choice. They want to have a say in how they live their lives and what services they use. One mother named Fran told me that she would like to transition her son, Josh, into an independent living environment—not a group home but a small flat. Josh has Down syndrome. He could do this with some assistance, and he wants to. Fran told me that the National Disability Insurance Scheme will make this dream possible.

The service providers are also keen to see what their role will be and how they will need to change to adapt. I have many professional and caring disability providers in my electorate. I have been to visit all that have a presence in the Blue Mountains and I can say without hesitation that their professionalism and the way they care for their clients is without question and beyond reproach. I serve on the fundraising board of Greystanes Disability Service, the Greystanes Foundation. I often talk with the chief executive officer of that organisation, John Le Breton, about what the National Disability Insurance Scheme [NDIS] will mean to it. Greystanes is eager and ready to participate in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and in fact is already providing a brokerage service similar to that proposed under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Greystanes clients are mostly very high dependency, with both physical and intellectual needs.

The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 is a momentous step forward in the evolution of disability services in New South Wales. Now that the National Disability Insurance Scheme launch project has been underway in the Hunter region for four months, it is imperative that the Government put in place a legislative framework to ensure the success of the scheme in New South Wales and fulfil the Government's commitments to people with a disability. The initial trial in the Hunter is precisely that—a trial to iron out any difficulties with rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is disappointing to see the politicking around this important initiative.

I mentioned previously in this House how the former Federal Labor Government used the National Disability Insurance Scheme for political pointscoring, with the former Federal Minister for Disability Reform announcing a rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in electorates—of which Blue Mountains was one—without any consultation. This was very disappointing. We had heard that there was to be a bipartisan approach to empowering people with a disability. However, disappointingly, the trust that the Labor Party would do the right thing by people with a disability was destroyed. It was heartening to see at the recent Federal election that the people of Australia recognised this untrustworthiness.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a social insurance scheme that addresses the need for a new, better-coordinated funding model for people with a disability rather than the current State-based approach. It establishes a single national system that provides individualised funding to people with a disability and which is based on need. Instead of funding being allocated to service providers, as is currently the case in New South Wales, individuals will be given direct access to funding that they can administer either by themselves or through a broker, giving them greater choice and control in the provision of their supports. If their service provider is doing such a fantastic job then I am sure that people will stay with their current service provider.

The disability provider sector has come a long way from people being institutionalised, with group homes and rigid programs, to now becoming person centred and individualised. This is not only a huge shift in thinking for some; it also requires profound system-wide change in the way that we provide services to people with a disability in New South Wales if it is to succeed. For many years the New South Wales Government and community sector agencies have provided a range of supports to people with a disability in New South Wales. Ageing, Disability and Home Care and the services it funds have developed enormous expertise and experience in the provision of disability services. This experience has seen a shift away from program-funded service provision to client-focused, holistic service delivery, consistent with the National Disability Insurance Scheme approach.

The service providers in the Blue Mountains I have spoken to are shifting to this approach. Greystanes Disability Services has a Leura day options program as well as one-on-one activities to suit the needs of the client. Blue Mountains Disability Services, Eloura, another provider in my electorate, earlier in the year participated in the Challenge Awards, which are based on the structure of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Participants chose a variety of skills through which to challenge themselves. Some of them took up photography. Some learned how to put up a tent. Those who were physically able tried climbing a climbing wall. These were activities the clients chose to do. This Friday night Kirinari Community Services will hold a ball, which is the social activity their clients chose. None of them had been to a ball before and it is something they wanted to experience. I look forward to attending the ball and enjoying the night with the Kirinari clients.

Similarly, the Nepean Area Disabilities Organisation [NADO] and Civic Residential Services at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains have wonderful, dedicated staff whose prime goal is to enhance the lives of people with a disability in their care. Hence the next step in the National Disability Insurance Scheme is to redesign the disability services sector and move from government-directed to client-directed services. This requires New South Wales to invest its disability service resources in the non-government sector so that it can better meet demand for this approach. The care, concern, flexibility and excellent service that non-government organisations provide in the Blue Mountains allays any concerns in my mind regarding the transitioning of services to the non-government sector.

The bill defines clear objectives to guide this process: continuity of service provision for people with a disability, continuity of employment for people providing those services and a commitment to building the capacity of the disability services sector through the transfer of government assets to that sector. Given that the demand for disability services is expected to increase greatly when the National Disability Insurance Scheme is running fully by mid-2018, a concomitant increase in the number of staff will also be needed. An estimated 50,000 extra people will be able to access support for the first time. Given that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is in only its first stage of operation, it is important that the processes by which the bill seeks to achieve its objectives are open and flexible so that feedback on the scheme from people with a disability, their families and carers, service providers and community organisations can be taken into account.

It is also important that that process starts now not only to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible but also to give the sector enough time to expand to meet growing demand and adapt as lessons are learned from the launch. This is an exciting and challenging period in the evolution of disability services in New South Wales. The bill establishes the foundation for the future of disability services in this State. It is eagerly anticipated by people with a disability, their families and carers. It is the right thing to do for people with a disability. I congratulate the Minister for Disability Services, John Ajaka, and the previous Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, on pursuing the cause of people with a disability, which has culminated in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. I commend the bill to the House.

Mrs LESLIE WILLIAMS (Port Macquarie) [11.47 a.m.]: I am pleased today to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013. The introduction of the bill in this House marks a significant and historical day for people with disabilities, their carers and their families across New South Wales. It is momentous in that the way we deliver services and funding to those with disabilities is about to change, and change for the better. I know this as someone who grew up as a carer for my younger brother, Phillip, who has lived with severe physical and intellectual disabilities his entire life. Like my parents, who have cared for him for the past almost 50 years, I know how important it is that people with disabilities are treated as individuals and are provided with services that address their unique needs and wants.

I congratulate the Minister in the other place, the Hon. John Ajaka, and his predecessor, the Hon. Andrew Constance, on their determination to see change. But I do wonder why it has taken so long for legislatures to realise that one size does not fit all—it does not work for the rest of the population so why did we think it would work for those with disabilities? My brother Phillip is as individual as you and I; and, as with the rest of us, he has his likes and his dislikes. He likes music, he likes to be active, he likes to socialise with others and he likes to watch sport, particularly when his sisters, nieces and nephews are on the field. He likes to go for drives, he likes to eat out, and he does not mind a beer every now and then. Sitting in a room with others with disabilities who are unable to communicate will not satisfy his needs, and expecting him to sit at a table and undertake some activities will in a short time see him frustrated and bored. There is not a single reason why he and my parents should not have the right to choose the support services they want to use and be in control of government funding that best suits their needs.

So it is exciting that people with disabilities will no longer have to fit into the services that are on offer; rather, they will have the opportunity to choose the services they want based on what best fits their individual needs. This is a generational change. By passing this bill we can be confident that New South Wales will be able to seize the opportunities that form the basis of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. These reforms, which are shared between the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments, will see an additional 50,000 people with disabilities in our State receive government support for the first time and funding will more than double by 2018.

In 2012 the New South Wales Government made a commitment to implement a scheme that put the person with a disability at the centre of decision-making. On 1 July 2013 the Government launched the first site in the Hunter and we will see a full transition to the Commonwealth system completed by mid-2018. As well as providing enormous benefits to people with disabilities, the transformation of this sector will result in an additional 25,000 people across New South Wales being employed in a workforce that effectively responds to people's needs. There will need to be some legislative change in order for a smooth transition of services to the non-government sector that will provide continuity of services.

The object of the bill is to authorise and facilitate the transfer of the State's public sector disability services assets in connection with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme of the Commonwealth. The bill also makes detailed arrangements for the transfer of the employment and entitlements of public sector disability services employees. The bill will empower the Government with measures that it may require to complete these reforms and enables the establishment of parameters for current services, assets and staff to transition into the scheme; the creation of corporate entities, arrangements for staff and assets and vesting rights and liabilities by way of order; and the ability to transfer the employment of staff through an agreement with a private sector entity. It is vital that this is made possible to ensure we maintain the expertise and skills of those who are already working in the disability sector.

The bill will enable the maintenance of certain entitlements and award conditions on transfer and will enable vesting orders to be made in relation to assets, rights and liabilities. I note for example that some 480 residential properties are currently used for supported accommodation. The bill will allow for these to be vested to the appropriate entities, which may include other areas of government, the community housing sector, non-government organisation disability providers or private sector organisations. It is important that the Government make sure there is a smooth transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The bill will enable that to happen. Our focus must always remain on ensuring that people living with disabilities are at the centre of our decisions, that they can access a diverse range of services that best meet their individual needs and that we do everything in our power to ensure that we allow them to get the best outcomes.

I commend the many local disability services in the Port Macquarie electorate that do such an amazing job and with whom I have worked on a range of issues. To name just a few, I am confident that NewIDAFE, Access Community Education Services and Hastings Respite will be key players in the provision of disability services in the future under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. These non-government organisations provide a range of services and have excellent relationships with individual clients because of the high standard of services they provide. I know from first-hand experience that they do a great job. They are flexible, innovative and responsive to individual needs. Their capacity and services will only be strengthened and broadened when the National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully implemented.

A few months ago Minister John Ajaka visited a number of disability service providers in Port Macquarie. He, like me, was impressed with the work that these organisations are undertaking in preparation for the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I acknowledge and thank the hundreds of volunteers who give their time to work alongside our paid employees in the disability sector. Their collaboration and teamwork every day is nothing short of outstanding and the beneficiaries are those with disabilities and their carers. I thank them for their care, generosity and effort. I know that each time they interact with people with disabilities they are rewarded by their smiles, but on behalf of our community I sincerely thank them. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr ADAM MARSHALL (Northern Tablelands) [11.54 a.m.]: I speak in debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 with a great deal of pride for a number of reasons. With the indulgence of members, I will tell a short story. Last Saturday night at Armidale I attended the Butterfly Ball, which was the first debutante ball for people with disabilities to be held in Armidale. There were 23 debutantes. They looked stunning and the smiles on their faces were priceless. On the evening I quoted Ghandi, who said that a society can be judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable. If members had been there they would have seen how true that is. It was wonderful to see the debutantes so happy.

During the evening I spoke to some of the debutantes and their families about the upcoming debate on this bill. Their excitement and anticipation for these reforms was overwhelming. They are looking forward to having choice and empowerment as well as benefiting from the extra resources that will be dedicated to the disability sector and service providers. I thank Minister John Ajaka and his predecessor, Andrew Constance, for their great work in championing the National Disability Insurance Scheme in this State. We must acknowledge that New South Wales is leading the way in disability services. We were the first State to sign up to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and this legislation will provide the framework to ensure the success of the scheme and its roll-out.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is an insurance-based model of funding that will enable people with disabilities to access the market and purchase the supports they need to live their lives to the full. It is no understatement to say that this is one of the most significant social reforms to take place in this State and this country. The bipartisan support the scheme has received is a credit to all involved on every side of politics. That is a credit to everyone. However, for these reforms to be successful the market needs to be diverse, dynamic and able to respond to the choices people make as the scheme is rolled out. The Government has acknowledged that one dominant public sector provider will restrict diversity and innovation in the market and skew competition in a way that prevents natural market responses. Government is often restricted by process and infrastructure and is unable to be as innovative or dynamic as non-government providers. For this reason, as part of the commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Government will be withdrawing from the delivery of disability services and community care supports in order that the organisations that are best placed to grow and meet the demand are able to do so.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the great work done by all service providers in my electorate of Northern Tablelands. I acknowledge the Inverell Accommodation Service, Inverell Disability Services and Joblink Plus, which has a magnificent community garden project that I recently had the pleasure of visiting and helping with plantings. I also acknowledge the Dementia Access Project and Care for Children with Disabilities in Armidale, the Ascent Group, Medicare Local New England, Life Without Barriers, Maclean Care Inverell, Promoting Early Intervention and Active Learning Inc. [PEDAL] Early Childhood Intervention, Sunnyfield and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. In addition, I acknowledge the eight councils in my electorate that provide community transport and important home and community care services across the region. I also acknowledge the other providers that do fantastic work. I have had the pleasure to meet with some of the volunteers, employees and clients. They are excited about these reforms and what the future holds.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme represents a massive increase in funding. A number of members who preceded me in this debate have referred to the doubling of funding throughout the full rollout for disability support. With 140,000 people in New South Wales participating in the scheme by 2018, which includes an additional 50,000 people who will be able to access support for the very first time, the Government acknowledges that for the sector to meet this demand, it needs to grow very quickly. That is why the bill provides for that growth by enabling the transfer of assets and the workforce to organisations that will deliver a range of services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The bill does not provide for exactly how that will be done but it will enable flexibility for the Government to negotiate the best arrangements to obtain the best outcomes for people. As we heard from the member for Port Macquarie earlier in this debate, at all times our focus should be on people with a disability and obtaining the best possible outcomes for them and their lives. The bill will do three things to provide for a smooth and effective transition through the National Disability Insurance Scheme. First, there will be continuity of supports and services for people with a disability while they are in the process of making their own decisions about their future. Secondly, the non-government sector will be encouraged to retain skilled disability workers. Thirdly, the non-government sector will be able to maximise the capacity of the disability services sector through assets it will hold and the staff it will have. The Minister and the Government have acknowledged that this will mean the transfer of staff to new employers. When that is the case, the bill has mechanisms built into it to protect employee entitlements and provide for continuity of awards, which is very important. That concern was raised with me initially in this process. The bill also will enable the finer details to be worked out between relevant stakeholders following negotiations with the client, staff, employee representatives and non-government employers. The capacity to vest assets has the potential for huge growth in the sector and will enable it to meet the increasing demand for services.

We are advised that the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the Hunter is going very well. There will be a full-scale expansion of the National Disability Insurance Scheme over the next few years to the whole of the State. People in my electorate of Northern Tablelands are very much looking forward to that. From the launch we are learning what we need to do in relation to operational and policy issues for people with disabilities in all parts of the State. The bill provides for the legislative transition that is necessary to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This bill represents an opportunity for New South Wales to continue to lead the way in the provision of disability care by delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme and, with it, real choice and real control. I am proud to speak in favour of this bill and to be part of a Government—indeed, a Parliament—that places such high importance on ensuring the best possible future and outcomes for people with disability in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [12.02 p.m.]: During my contribution to debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013, I place on the record some very real concerns I have about the lack of provision it makes for high dependency people with a disability in residential care. Those people have little option other than institutionalised care, due to significant developmental disability, physical disability or a combination of both. At this point I foreshadow that at the conclusion of my speech I will move a motion that the question, "That this bill be now read a second time", be amended by omitting the word "now" and inserting instead, "That this bill be read a second time on 25 February 2014", to allow for consultation with affected residents, families, carers and other interested parties prior to rather than after the carriage of the legislation.

Let me state for the record that I support the intentions and provisions of the National Disability Insurance Scheme because of the opportunities that it will open to so many people with disability who in the past have been denied dignity and opportunity due to a lack of funds and services. Those features of the scheme are to be applauded as they advance us as a community. The majority of the bill is laudable. However, I have concerns about the provisions in the bill aimed at divesting the State of any role in delivering disability services. This has been the sticking point for me since the bill was introduced and it remains so, despite discussions I have had over the past week with the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for the Illawarra, Mr Ajaka, and the Minister for Finance and Services, Mr Constance, as well as ministerial and departmental staff. I express my appreciation to Minister Ajaka and Minister Constance for the time they afforded me. As I indicated in my opening remarks, my particular concern is removal of the safety net of public sector residential care from those in the disability sector who are most vulnerable. Anyone who shares my concerns—and I assure the House there are plenty of them—would be offended by the Minister's second reading speech in the other House. He stated:
        I will go so far as to say that a vote against this bill is a vote against the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the rights of people with disability to live with dignity and respect in the New South Wales community.

I do not know who wrote that for the Minister, but it is a disgrace. It should not be said. People should not be wedged by such an argument. Generally we can work across the board in a bipartisan manner in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme but I have a responsibility to represent people in my electorate who have very real concerns about this bill. I will not be confined by a wedge argument from the Minister. I do not believe that is the Minister's true intent. Once again I believe we are seeing a bit of politicking and a bit of poor advice. I know I am swimming against the tide in speaking against this bill and that both the Government and the Opposition have signalled their support for it, but I cannot let it charge unopposed through both Houses of Parliament while serious issues have not been resolved, even though the concerns affect a minority of those who will benefit from the National Disability Insurance Scheme. As a former developmental disability nurse—actually, I was a psychiatric nurse but I spent many of my years working in disability services—I know quite a deal about this subject. I also note that many people have legitimate fears about the privatisation of public sector residential care. For the past few weeks since the bill was hastily introduced to the upper House at 8.00 p.m. on 23 October, I have been hearing from families and carers of people in long-term residential disability care who are extremely anxious about what the future holds. They email and call my office constantly. Some are constituents and others are not. Some work in the field or have family members in residential care. In most cases they have sought me out in the hope that I might be able to help them find some answers to their questions. None of those people were from the Public Service Association [PSA]. Despite all the talk about consultation, the first that many people knew of the Government's decision to phase out public sector residential care by 2018 was when they read about it in the Newcastle Herald on 16 October. Then, lo and behold, just a week later this legislation is seemingly stealthily introduced with no further explanation or public discussion about what it will mean for those very vulnerable clients of public residential centres. In the Hunter region there are three residential facilities—Stockton in Newcastle, Tomaree in Port Stephens and Kanangra in the Lake Macquarie electorate at Morisset—that together house more than 500 clients. I worked at the Morisset centre at Kanangra for approximately 25 years, the last 10 years of which I spent in developmental disability services. My many friends who still work in the sector maintain connections with past clients and their families. I know firsthand the challenges faced by families and carers of those who have the most severe and restrictive disabilities. The services they need are complex, diverse and often are labour intensive. They require high skill levels and dedication from carers and certainly not the types of services that private operators, with an eye to the corporate bottom line, will perhaps be in a rush to provide.

Although there is no doubt that some do, there are some who can, and there are some who will, but already we have seen concerns expressed by respected disability service providers, such as the House with No Steps, that remuneration levels for carers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme are inadequate and will force small operators to the wall. What does that say about the likely success of very expensive high-dependency services being picked up by the private sector and delivered with the same diligence and focus on quality that those clients in public care have come to expect? The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of New South Wales is one group that shares my concerns about this. In a press release issued last week, the association stated:
        People should have the option of retaining or accessing Government run services if they wish to do so. Within a market focused environment people with high needs who are unable to advocate for themselves, particularly those who don't have a strong advocate speaking out on their behalf, fall through the cracks.

We see this happening in aged care, where private providers are able to cherry pick nursing home residents and so avoid taking on people who are considered to have costly high needs or labelled as having problem behaviours.

Without a Government operator which can have more oversight, we'll end up with a race to the bottom in terms of quality of services for high needs people.

There are many people with developmental disabilities and challenging behaviours who are living successfully and with dignity in the State system. In many cases they are doing so after failed attempts to manage their residential needs in the private or not-for-profit sectors. For the benefit of the House and to give some people a sense of the challenge faced by carers, I add that some of the extremes of behaviour sometimes seen in those residential resources include self-injury, violence to others, property damage, disturbance of the local community through screaming abuse, sexual promiscuity and inappropriate and confronting dress or other behaviours, or a lack of dress. I know of examples where people cared for by non-government organisations were so out of control that the only option was to place them in State care. The public sector has traditionally been the provider of last resort and it needs to continue to be there for this purpose. There are many residents who I can say without exaggeration might not be alive today if not for the expertise, experience, care and dedication of nursing and allied staff within the State care system. [Extension of time agreed to.]

One example that comes to mind from my own nursing experience is that of a woman who was prone to violent tantrums, escalating to extreme self-harm. At times she would attempt to attack others, but her most confronting and difficult behaviour was her propensity to bite her own arms with extreme force, inflicting deep wounds and gashes. As a matter of fact, she would take a piece of her own flesh from her arms and sometimes chew and swallow it. After many years of this behaviour, her arms were all but scar tissue. This behaviour brought her into State care and, while it took time, her life has now changed and these extreme behaviours are no longer evident. I use this example to illustrate how effective State care can be in the most challenging situations. I could give many more examples, including some that are even more confronting. However, time and the sensitive nature of these issues restrict me.

Another benefit of State residential care is the embedded medical service that is provided within the facilities. Residents often have complex and considerable medical needs, which can be exacerbated by communication difficulties. Trying to have those needs attended to out in the community is extremely difficult. Medical officers attached to residential facilities can deal with these challenges in a familiar environment and in a way that is less confronting for both the patient and the person delivering the care. The underlying tenet of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is providing people with disability with choice about their care, but there is one important choice that this bill will take away, which is the choice to remain in public sector care.

As honourable and desirable an ideal as community-based care is for many, it is important that we acknowledge it is not the silver bullet solution for everyone. Some people now in full-time residential centres will, with improved resources and support, be able to transition to an alternative mode of care—and this will be a positive outcome of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Others, however, will not and for those people it seems ironic, if not disingenuous, to say that this bill is about providing choice because it is actually about removing choice. It is about divesting the State of responsibility and assets in the area of disability services. There is no ambiguity about this. The Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, in his second reading speech, said:
      From 2018 New South Wales will no longer provide or fund disability or community care support …

But I, and others who share my concern about the apparent lack of contingency planning for people with high-care needs, fail to see why the State's departure from the disability service sector has to be absolute. Why can it not remain a provider in this brave new world of privatised care, particularly in the specialised area of high-dependency residential care? I have often heard the argument that centres such as Stockton, Tomaree and Morisset are outdated and impractical—past their use-by date, as it were. It has suited successive governments to allow those facilities to run down so they could use this argument to justify foreshadowed closures. The Minister indicated in the House yesterday that the Government intends to redevelop the Stockton Centre. I welcome this commitment, but if the Government could articulate in more detail how and when the development will occur, how the new centre will be managed and to whom it will be open, it would ease a lot of anxiety among current residents and their families. However, I wish to thank the Minister for articulating that quite clearly in his second reading speech and guaranteeing that it will happen.

The impasse in this debate is lack of communication. People in residential facilities and their families and carers do not understand how they will be catered for under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, what care options will be available to them and who will deliver them. The failures of the Richmond report on deinstitutionalisation loom large in their minds. That may be unfair, because I know we have learned from the process and I believe the Government when it says it is committed to ensuring those mistakes are not repeated, but one can understand why people are wary of the Government's intention to leave the disability care sector entirely. The people that I speak for today represent only a small proportion of people with disabilities, but the potential impact on them is huge. We cannot allow people with high care needs to be "auctioned off" to private providers. I know the Minister does not like the term "privatisation", but it cannot be dispensed with. I understand the Minister met with a delegation of parents of residents from the Stockton Centre on 31 October to hear their concerns.

While I acknowledge the Minister's willingness to meet those affected by these reforms and hear their concerns, I contend that it is not good enough to ask these people to take it in good faith that these concerns will be addressed retrospectively. Why not deal with them now? It has been put to me that the urgency to have this bill passed is the imminent renewal of home care contracts and the Government's need to have home care transferred out of the public sector. However, in the Newcastle Herald yesterday morning, a ministerial spokesman said the current funding was in place until 2015. Can we not then afford a couple more months to allow for more discussion, to try to eliminate the uncertainties that are giving way to fear?

In closing, I reiterate one important thing: I support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I support the rights of people with disabilities. I want to support this bill, but I do not wish to support it while surrendering the concerns of those people who have spoken to me, who are residents of large State-run centres and their parents. It is unreasonable and unconscionable to progress the bill until the very real and heartfelt concerns of the families and carers of people in high-dependency care are met. Unless the Government can provide clients of residential centres, their families and carers with absolute clarity about how the future needs of those people will be catered for under the new regime the bill should be deferred until the next sitting to allow proper consultation to take place. I would dearly love to be standing here and to be saying that I will support this 100 per cent. I support it 98 per cent, because we are talking about a small cohort of people in State disability care services who have very real concerns. For the 50,000 additional people who will get these services it is absolutely magnificent, and I applaud the Government for its progress on that. If there is a deficit in the process, it is to do with the lack of consultation and the very real fear that is being felt not just by parents of some residents but also by residents who have contacted me, residents who are given care by the State as well as people for whom I have cared in the past who have contacted me and who are very scared. They are smart enough not to understand the detail but they understand that something is happening to their lives and they would have liked to have had a conversation with the Government about this. However, that has not happened. I move:
        That the motion be amended by leaving out the word "now" and adding the words "on 25 February 2014 to allow for consultation with affected residents, family, carers and other interested parties prior to, rather than after, the carriage of the legislation."

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans): Order! Pursuant to Standing Order 200, when deferring the second reading of a bill only a later date or time is permitted. Therefore, the reason given by the member for Lake Macquarie is out of order and will not form part of the question.

Question—That the words stand—put.

The House divided.
Ayes, 64
Mr Anderson
Mr Aplin
Mr Ayres
Mr Baird
Mr Barilaro
Mr Bassett
Mr Baumann
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Bromhead
Mr Brookes
Mr Casuscelli
Mr Conolly
Mr Constance
Mr Cornwell
Mr Coure
Mrs Davies
Mr Dominello
Mr Doyle
Mr Elliott
Mr Flowers
Mr Fraser
Mr Gee
Mr George
Ms Gibbons
Ms Goward
Mr Grant
Mr Gulaptis
Mr Hartcher
Mr Hazzard
Ms Hodgkinson
Mr Holstein
Mr Humphries
Mr Issa
Mr Kean
Dr Lee
Mr Marshall
Mr Notley-Smith
Mr O'Dea
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Owen
Mr Page
Ms Parker
Mr Patterson
Mr Perrottet
Mr Piccoli
Mr Roberts
Mr Rowell
Mrs Sage
Mr Sidoti
Mrs Skinner
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Speakman
Mr Spence
Mr Stokes
Mr Stoner
Mr Toole
Ms Upton
Mr Ward
Mr Webber
Mr R. C. Williams
Mrs Williams

Tellers,
Mr Maguire
Mr J. D. Williams
Noes, 23
Mr Barr
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Collier
Mr Daley
Mr Greenwich
Ms Hay
Mr Hoenig
Ms Hornery
Mr Lynch
Dr McDonald
Ms Mihailuk
Mr Park
Mr Parker
Mrs Perry
Mr Piper
Mr Rees
Mr Robertson
Ms Tebbutt
Ms Watson
Mr Zangari
Tellers,
Mr Amery
Mr Lalich

Pair

Mr Edwards Mr Furolo
Question resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Mr GARETH WARD (Kiama) [12.27 p.m.]: As a member of this House with a disability, I am pleased to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013, which will bring much relief to many people concerned about their future. I commend also Andrew Constance, my very good friend whom I have known for many years and who led the debate on this issue, including as the shadow Minister and previously as the responsible Minister.

Ms Noreen Hay: Suck, suck.

Mr GARETH WARD: I am disappointed in the comments of the member for Wollongong because this is a sensitive debate. I am sure the member for Wollongong agrees that the achievements in this sector are commendable. I remember standing with the member for Wollongong at a National Disability Insurance Scheme forum in Port Kembla. I know that she supports this issue. I commend the Minister for his hard work and dedication to bring about this important achievement. I commend also the former Federal Labor Government for its instigation and assistance. This issue is beyond politics. The Government is proud to introduce the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013 which is necessary to enable New South Wales to take its first steps to ensure the success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme for people with disabilities in our community.

In December 2012 New South Wales became the first Australian State to sign on to the National Disability Insurance Scheme through a heads of agreement with the Commonwealth. The agreement represents a historic milestone for people with disability, their families and carers not only in New South Wales but also throughout the country. It establishes the means to deliver equitable and adequate support for people with disability, many of whom have struggled for a long time without access to the necessary supports they need to live with dignity and respect. This agreement places real choice and control in the hands of people with disability over supports they need to live their lives the way they want.

The reforms will be delivered through a partnership between the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments and will benefit approximately 140,000 people with disability in New South Wales. The New South Wales commitment of $3.1 billion will be directed exclusively to enable people with disability to plan individual funding packages to purchase supports, based on an assessment of their capacity and circumstances. In addition, the Commonwealth will provide $3.3 billion, making the total funding $6.4 billion. I acknowledge the wonderful disability service providers in my electorate, which include Flagstaff, CareSouth, Essential Personnel and Greenacres Disability Services, as well as many others. The staff at Flagstaff are excellent, including the chief executive officer, Roy Rogers, whom I met during a visit to the Flagstaff facility at North Nowra. They have excellent products and provide wonderful services for people with disability.

Last Friday evening I had the enormous privilege of attending the twenty-first anniversary celebration of CareSouth at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre. It was a fantastic event to celebrate the great work that they do in our community. I pay tribute to their coordinators and staff, particularly my good friend James Parrish, who is a member of the board. I have been to several Greenacres Disability Services graduation ceremonies to acknowledge the fantastic achievement of those participants who complete its Joblink Transition to Work program. I acknowledge Lisa Vaughan and the hardworking staff of Greenacres, who do an outstanding job for the people they assist.

In July this year I was very pleased to visit Northcott Disability Services in Oak Flats to present them with a $500 cheque to help purchase new kitchen utensils. I think the former Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, provided that discretionary grant. I acknowledge program coordinator Shea Hanson, Deirdre Cowan-Brown, and Tordis Bulger, who do a magnificent job with these young people. I also acknowledge the outstanding role that the KidzWish foundation plays in the Illawarra to support sick, disabled and disadvantaged children across the region. I acknowledge the wonderful staff of KidzWish, including its executive director, Chris Beavan, who started the charity in the backroom of her home and has been incredibly dedicated to it. I recently presented her with a much-deserved community service award for her contribution over many years. I will be attending the KidzWish annual dinner this Friday night in Wollongong, as I do every year. I look forward to that event. I acknowledge events manager Glenn Meznaric, business manager Kristy Sharman and marketing manager Karouna Micheal.

The launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme occurred in 2013 in the Hunter area. An estimated 10,000 people will begin to access the scheme over the next three years. The launch in the Hunter and in other locations across Australia will enable us to design the approach to progressively rolling out the scheme across the remainder of New South Wales from July 2016. The New South Wales Government is contributing $585 million towards the first-stage launch. The launch process is critical to ensuring that we have policy and operational partnerships before we move to the full State rollout. Importantly, we are moving towards a monumental shift in the way people with disability are supported in our community to plan for their lives and achieve their goals.

For people with disability the National Disability Insurance Scheme is more than insurance, it is a fundamental human rights issue. It means that people with disability will have choice and control over their supports instead of having services prescribed for them. Ultimately, it will lead to more positive outcomes in their lives. This will be fostered through the promotion of a vibrant and competitive market of service and support across communities in New South Wales that will need to respond to the desires and aspirations of people with disability and bring new approaches, innovation and flexibility to bear in how support is arranged.

The New South Wales Government is by far the largest provider of disability services and community care support in the State. There is already a diverse disability and community care non-government sector in place, made up of everything from small, local volunteer organised services to large, complex non-government providers that provide a suite of supports. For the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be truly innovative and responsive to the needs of people with disability, the non-government sector needs to grow and flourish. I will take a moment to explain why this is necessary. Non-government organisations are mainly inclusive, participatory and quality focused. They have the capacity to generate social capital in a way that the government and private sectors cannot. Social capital is critical to maximising advantages for people with disability and other vulnerable groups.

There are thousands upon thousands of non-government organisations across New South Wales, each with their own philosophy, specialisation and collaboration. The rich diversity of the sector provides economic and social benefit for New South Wales. They can take risks where a government service may be conservative and they can influence the views of the community and Government about the people they support, which can lead to greater inclusion, acceptance and knowledge transfer. These organisations have their finger on the pulse of local communities. They work directly with local communities and individuals to make inclusion and choice for people with disability a reality.

The role of the New South Wales Government in future needs to be as an enabler for the non-government sector. We have an obligation to support the sector in accessing a skilled and experienced workforce to help it achieve the innovation that people with disability require. We, the New South Wales Government, also have an obligation to people who currently need support. Our obligation is to do everything within our power to ensure that when the time comes for them to engage with the National Disability Insurance Scheme they have the chance to make choices about their future and are not constrained by the models of support that are now in place.

From 2018, New South Wales will no longer provide or fund disability or community care support and the National Disability Insurance Scheme Agency will take over responsibility for the development of the sector and the funding of support for people. This means that the existing State service capacity workforce and expertise need to be placed in the hands of the non-government sector and reinvested in the marketplace for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to succeed. The key purpose of this bill is to provide for this transfer. Importantly, the bill is designed to achieve three critical objectives: to ensure that the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme delivers maximum continuity of service for people with disability as they make decisions about the future; to promote the retention of the skilled disability service workforce; and to maximise the capacity of the disability service sector. This is a necessary step in meeting this Government's commitment under its heads of agreement.

The New South Wales Government has already committed $3.13 billion to the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This will be matched by the contribution of $3.3 billion from the Commonwealth. The total commitment of New South Wales represents the largest contribution of its kind. We are committed to making the National Disability Insurance Scheme work. The types of transfers enabled by the bill are designed to boost the sector and guarantee the success of the scheme. Should any income be generated under the bill, it would be used to support the inclusion of people with disability across New South Wales. At present, the New South Wales Government funds and delivers support to over 90,000 people with disability.

This bill, and the Minister's hard work on it, will be one of the defining achievements of Minister Constance's political career, although he may not know it at this point. His effort, empathy and energy are some of the reasons that we are debating this bill today, in addition to all the families and communities across the State who have pushed for this scheme to become a reality. This is a truly defining moment in our State, where we put people with disability and their needs first, where this House shows its empathy and compassion, and where governments of all levels work together to obtain a truly Australian and unique outcome. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE (Bega—Minister for Finance and Services) [12.37 p.m.], in reply: I acknowledge and thank the members representing the electorates of Myall Lakes, Wollondilly, Pittwater, Camden, Cronulla, Gosford, Menai, Bathurst, Blue Mountains, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Northern Tablelands, Davidson, Cessnock, Balmain, Fairfield, Wallsend, Lake Macquarie, Oatley and Kiama for their contributions to debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (New South Wales Enabling) Bill 2013. I particularly acknowledge and thank the members who have raised specific issues of concern. I acknowledge Mrs Barbara Perry, the shadow Minister for Disability Services, and Mr Greg Piper, the member for Lake Macquarie. I will refer particularly to Mr Greg Piper's contribution. I also acknowledge Ms Sonia Hornery for raising specific issues relating to Stockton.

In the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and its broader implementation, not all questions have been answered. That is because we are dealing with a scheme that is underpinned by the fundamental human rights principles of choice and control. It must be recognised that no disability system is perfect. The transition before us will see enormous change and it will pose particular challenges. I single out the contribution of the member for Lake Macquarie. The member's experience in this field is vast and no other member of Parliament can bring his level of expertise to the debate. The concerns raised by the member are important and valid. Every member in this and the other place supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is important for members, regardless of their political persuasion, to raise the concerns of the communities they represent or have worked in, as the member for Lake Macquarie has done.

These changes are difficult for a number of reasons, particularly for those who reside in large residential centres. Many facilities in which people live and their carers work are outdated and in some cases unacceptable. The community would be horrified to know that in 2013 a person with disabilities is forced to reside in a facility that has three people sleeping in one bedroom. Some facilities have not been maintained. In one facility a toilet is next to the bed of a person with disabilities. These facilities date back to the 1950s and 1960s and since then nothing has changed. Over many decades we have seen a change in the way in which people with disabilities have been supported. However, for many people with disabilities, the large residential centres in which they live are their home, community and family environment.

I understand the difficult challenges associated with change in relation to large residential centres. They have a lot of history and longstanding and critical relationships exist between staff and residents. The varying degrees of disability and, in some cases, difficult behaviours pose enormous challenges when determining whether the life aspirations of individuals are being met. There is the added burden of ageing parent carers who years earlier made the heart-wrenching decision to have their loved one with disabilities provided care in a large residential centre. Some families are concerned that the intensive care provided to their disabled loved ones in large residential centres will not be ongoing, and that goes to the heart of the issue raised by the member for Lake Macquarie. When we overlay that issue with the complexities of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it means uncertainty for staff and people with disabilities and their families.

My comments in relation to the Stockton Centre apply to Kanangra and all the other large residential centres across the State operated by both the government and community sectors. Because of the nature and history of those facilities, consultation is the key factor. I am not sure that any government has got that right, particularly in the initial stages. However, I know that once consultation is underway we will see tremendous outcomes. The redevelopment of Westmead and Rydalmere incorporated three models of care relating to age, medical-based needs and challenging behaviours. The decision on those three models of care was made up-front. Following that decision, the process of engagement and individual consultation resulted in important changes, and now many residents from Westmead and Rydalmere cannot wait for their new homes to be built. I believe that will be the case with the Stockton Centre, but we are not at that point. That is a key factor. Ageing, Disability and Home Care will embark on individual consultation and engage with staff to ascertain individual needs.

I refer to work that was done by the former Government and give as an example in this area the Norton Road group homes. I urge all members to view that facility. It is a redevelopment and the outcomes have been tremendous. Yesterday the member for Newcastle acknowledged that the Government's commitment still stands. We must focus now on ongoing consultation, which needs to take place. It is important that the local members who live in and represent the region are involved in the process. However, there are additional complexities and constraints associated with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Based on my experience, I know that change is extremely difficult in the disability sector and the more consultation that takes place the better. I refer to the constraints that exist within the National Disability Insurance Scheme. First, the States were asked by the Commonwealth to bring forward their launch sites. That has posed challenges because, first and foremost, we must ensure that the individuals have the capacity to adapt to the new scheme. That is an important point.

For many years, people with disabilities and their carers and families have not been given the opportunity to make decisions on the support they need on a daily basis to achieve their life aspirations. Therefore, we must address the ability of people with disabilities and their carers to make decisions and the way in which resources are invested to support the change. The Stronger Together program, which was initiated by the former Labor Government, is about investing resources into that decision-making capacity. From memory, under Stronger Together 2, approximately $138 million has been invested in relation to the issue of decision-making. That work, which is currently taking place, will feed the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Secondly, another challenge, particularly for the Commonwealth, is the workforce capacity. If a $2.5 billion system is transformed within five years into a $6.4 billion system, we need an additional 25,000 employees who have the expertise, experience and ability to work in the sector.

It is important that we invest not only in training and education but also in professional development. That involves TAFE colleges through to universities and the work being undertaken in care careers. This is relevant to the message that was expressed last night in the Hunter by the Public Service Association, as well as more broadly. The Government must work with the Public Service Association because it plays an important role in this process. It represents the wonderful staff in the supported accommodations, from the large residential centres to the group homes across the State. It is the Government's desire not only to recognise concerns in relation to the transfer of staff entitlements and staff to the community sector or to the National Disability Insurance Agency but also to recognise the important relationship that exists between clients and staff, as well as the ability of staff to innovate and provide the necessary care.

On every visit I made to large residential centres as the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services, I observed staff doing an incredible job. I also observed that they are constrained by the built environment in which they work. The present Minister is also very aware of this situation. It needs to change, and that was part of yesterday's message. I reiterate the point made earlier by the member for Lake Macquarie that, in relation to transfers, consideration is given to the expertise of staff who deal with the challenging behaviours of those with high-dependency disabilities. We are not talking about a transaction. We are talking about human relationships that exist between individuals and professional staff currently working for the State government, as well as future employment opportunities in a National Disability Insurance Scheme environment.

The heads of agreement flagged this change; it is there in black and white. That resulted in me, as the responsible Minister at the time, making the very clear statement that in order for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to work, and work incredibly well, change was vital so that people with disabilities could have choices and purchasing power as to the supports they desired. This meant that the State Government could not remain in service delivery. The National Disability Insurance Scheme has come about because tens of thousands of people with disabilities, their families and carers recognised that the system was broken. Both sides of politics had underinvested for years. The Productivity Commission recognised that the State-based schemes were broken. They were costly, inefficient and fragmented. That does not reflect on the work undertaken by staff within local communities on an hourly basis 24/7 caring for people with disabilities.

This bill facilitates change in the lead-up to the full implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It gives Ageing, Disability and Home Care the ability to gradually effect that change in a consultative way with people with disabilities, their families and carers, and staff. The trial in the Hunter has been underway since the middle of this year. This innovation will have teething problems, but eventually it will flourish and continue to flourish into the future. As members know, one of the key drivers for this change is our ageing population and the tens of thousands of ageing parent carers who will no longer be able to care for their loved ones in the home environment. We do not want to see families having to make the heart-wrenching decision to relinquish responsibility of their loved one to the State with no surety about their future.

In essence, the block funding of services, government and non-government, where people are told what they will receive, will cease. Under the scheme, an individualised service plan will be developed in consultation with the individuals with disabilities and their families and carers. Funding will be attached to that plan, and people will be able to engage in activities that can fulfil their life aspirations. That is a major change in the system. As a result of the work of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, under the former Government and this Government, the new initiatives will empower people to change their lives. They will have control over their funding. For example, under the new model, a local area coordinator will be able to assist individuals who want to go fishing or to a dance club so that they can enjoy a life experience that those without disability take for granted. This scheme will result in a marked shift in attitude towards people with disability.

The Public Service Association has expressed concern about the engagement of staff in this process. Indeed, it has made some very loud signals. The leadership group in Ageing, Disability and Home Care wants to work alongside the union. They want the process informed by the union's expertise and knowledge in order to make this scheme flourish for people with disabilities. The media coverage and conversations between staff and people with disabilities can have an unsettling effect on the individuals concerned. Therefore, I ask that all information be accessed from Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Family and Community Services and members of Parliament.

I do not want people with disabilities who reside in a group home or large residential centre being told that because of the changes their present carers will no longer be able to look after them. We have to methodically work through the process. The Government is sensitive to the concerns of staff. We understand this is a major change for everyone. I ask everyone not to lose sight of the purpose of this change, that we are talking about people's human rights, and that the workplaces of the future in relation to support for people with disability will be very different.

I know a lot has been said about my role in this process—and it is most humbling to hear my colleagues speak of my contribution—but there is a group of people who must be recognised and thanked. They are the thousands of people with a disability, their carers and their families. They have worked tirelessly for decades to reach this point. It is important to recognise them and to thank them for their contribution. I have no hesitation in acknowledging the work of John Della Bosca in the previous Labor Government in securing Stronger Together. Without a doubt, introducing that program was the best thing the Labor Government did. It is pleasing that the O'Farrell Government has continued the program and contributed growth money, without which we would be unable to transition properly to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Yes, there is still a lot of transition work to do in terms of engagement with the Commonwealth about timeliness and the transition of contracts. We must remember that the non-government sector had three-year service agreements. That will change in the new environment. There will be no service agreements in the future; there will be arrangements that exist between clients and the community sector.

These are incredible times in terms of what will happen in the future, but there will also be problems. I make it clear to those opposite that the elevation of concerns in no way, shape or form defines the commitment and the resolve of every member of this Parliament, regardless of their political persuasion, to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I cannot put it more strongly than that. I would like to see the bipartisanship that has existed around this issue extend to other areas of government policy. This is a terrific example of people coming together. The temptation is always there to make a political point but this process is a clear demonstration of the fact that bipartisanship, particularly in the social services area, can deliver some tremendous outcomes. I acknowledge all members for embracing that spirit of bipartisanship.

There is no doubt that this change is a good one. The passing of this legislation today is but one step of many to facilitate the necessary work ahead. People bring various degrees of experience to the table in this process. I thank again particularly those who have been involved in the negotiations. Ongoing engagement will occur between staff and the agency into the future. I also again recognise the input of every member who contributed to this debate, which is one of the most important that we will ever have in this House. I commend the legislation to the Parliament.

Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put and resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time.
Third Reading

Motion by Mr Andrew Constance agreed to:
      That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and returned to the Legislative Council without amendment.  (Source : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/Parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20131120005?open&refNavID=HA8_1)

"Community Services (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring) Act1993 - Section 47 - Protection of Complainant Against Retribution"

intimidate4(1) A person who takes or threatens to take detrimental actionagainst another person because that other person or any other person:

(a) makes, or proposes to make, a complaint to a service provider, an Official Community Visitor or the Ombudsman, or

(b) brings, or proposes to bring, proceedings before the Tribunal, or

(c) provides, or proposes to provide, information, documents or evidence to an Official Community Visitor, the Ombudsman or the Tribunal,

is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months, or both.

"Crimes Act 1958 - Section 63A Kidnapping"

kidnapWhosoever leads takes or entices away or detains any person with intent to demand from that person or any other person any payment by way of ransom for the return or release of that person or with intent to gain for himself or any other person any advantage (however arising) from the detention of that person shall, whether or not any demand or threat is in fact made, be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 2 imprisonment (25 years maximum).

"Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1988 - Section 63 - Evidence of Prior Alternative Action"

claws(1) When making a care application, the Director-General must furnish details to the Children’s Court of:
(a) the support and assistance provided for the safety, welfare and well-being of the child or young person, and
(b) the alternatives to a care order that were considered before the application was made and the reasons why those alternatives were rejected.
(2) The Children’s Court must not:
(a) dismiss a care application in relation to a child or young person, or
(b) discharge a child or young person who is in the care responsibility of the Director-General from that care responsibility,
by reason only that the Children’s Court is of the opinion that an appropriate alternative action that could have been taken in relation to the child or young person was not considered or taken.
(3) Subsection (2) does not prevent the Children’s Court from adjourning proceedings. (Source : http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/caypapa1998442/s63.html)

"Crimes Act 1914 Section 34 - Magistrate Exercising Exessive Oppression"

Judge or magistrate acting oppressively or when interested

Excessive and unreasonable bail

1.   A person commits an offence if:

  1. the person is a judge or magistrate; and
  2. the judge or magistrate is required or authorised by law to admit a person accused of an offence to bail; and
  3. the judge or magistrate requires excessive and unreasonable bail; and
  4. the requirement is an abuse of the judge's or magistrate's office; and
  5. the offence referred to in paragraph (b) is an offence against a law of the Commonwealth.

Penalty:  Imprisonment for 2 years.

"Crimes Act 1900 No 40 Part 4B - Section 249K - Blackmail Offence "

EASTERN SYDNEY CSC

Crimes Act 1900 No 40 Part 4B - Section 249K - Blackmail Offence

(1) A person who makes any unwarranted demand with menaces:

(a) with the intention of obtaining a gain or of causing a loss, or

(b) with the intention of influencing the exercise of a public duty, is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years.

(2) A person is guilty of an offence against this subsection if the person commits an offence against subsection (1) by an accusation, or a threatened accusation, that a person has committed a serious indictable offence.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 14 years.

"WA DCP - Children and Community Services Act 2004"

TABLE OF PROVISIONS

   PART 1 -- Preliminary  

   1.      Short title  
   2.      Commencement  
   3.      Terms used  
   4.      Presumptions of parentage  
   5.      Status of notes

   PART 2 -- Objects and principles

           Division 1 -- Objects  

   6.      Objects

           Division 2 -- General principles relating to children  

   7.      Best interests of child are paramount consideration  
   8.      Determining the best interests of a child  
   9.      Principles to be observed  
   10.     Principle of child participation

"Crimes Act 1900 - Section 546A - Consorting with Convicted Persons"

(1) Any person who habitually consorts with persons who have been convicted of indictable offences, if he or she knows that the persons have been convicted of indictable offences, shall be liable on conviction before the Local Court to imprisonment for 6 months, or to a fine of 4 penalty units.

(2) Proceedings for an offence against this section may be commenced at any time within 12 months after the date of commission of the offence.

(Source : http://corrigan.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ca190082/s546a.html)

"Crimes Act 1900 - Section 545C - Knowingly Joining or Cointinuing in Etc an Unlawful Assembly"

unlawful combatants(1) Whosoever knowingly joins an unlawful assembly or continues in it shall be taken to be a member of that assembly, and shall, on conviction before the Local Court, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding 5 penalty units, or both. (2) Whosoever being armed with any weapon or loaded arms, or with anything which used as a weapon of offence is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm, is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be liable, on conviction before the Local Court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months or to a fine not exceeding 10 penalty units, or both. (3) Any assembly of five or more persons whose common object is by means of intimidation or injury to compel any person to do what the person is not legally bound to do or to abstain from doing what the person is legally entitled to do, shall be deemed to be an unlawful assembly.

Source : http://corrigan.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ca190082/s545c.html)

"Crimes Act 1900 - Section 545B - Intimidation or Annoyance by Violence or Otherwise"

(1) Whosoever:

(a) with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such other person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, or

(b) in consequence of such other person having done any act which he had a legal right to do, or of his having abstained from doing any act which he had a legal right to abstain from doing,

wrongfully and without legal authority:

(i) uses violence or intimidation to or toward such other person or his wife, child, or dependant, or does any injury to him or to his wife, child, or dependant, or

(ii) follows such other person about from place to place, or

(iii) hides any tools, clothes, or other property owned or used by such other person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof, or

(v) follows such other person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street, road, or public place,

is liable, on conviction before the Local Court, to imprisonment for 2 years, or to a fine of 50 penalty units, or both.

(2) In this section:
"Intimidation" means the causing of a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person or to any member of his family or to any of his dependants, or of violence or damage to any person or property, and "intimidate" has a corresponding meaning.
"Injury" includes any injury to a person in respect of his property, business, occupation, employment, or other source of income, and also includes any actionable wrong of any nature.

(Source : http://corrigan.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ca190082/s545b.html)

"Crimes Act 1900 - Section 351B - Aiders and Abettors Punishable as Principals"

(1) Every person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of any offence punishable on summary conviction may be proceeded against and convicted together with or before or after the conviction of the principal offender.

(2) On conviction any such person is liable to the penalty and punishment to which the person would have been liable had the person been the principal offender.

(3) This section applies to offences committed before or after the commencement of this section.

(4) This section applies to an indictable offence that is being dealt with summarily.