Tammy Franks, Greens MLC, has put the Weatherill Government on notice that her party will not accept any ‘second-rate solutions’ in the long awaited creation of a state Children’s Commissioner.
“To our shame, South Australia is currently the only state in Australia without a Children’s Commissioner,” Ms Franks said.
“It is no surprise that the current Royal Commissioner, Margaret Nyland, recommended this past week that SA should establish a Children’s Commissioner. This echoes the recommendations from the 2003 Layton Report, and many others in between.
“The Greens will work constructively towards achieving the goal of a Children’s Commissioner for South Australia but we won’t be voting for second-rate solutions. We want a Children’s Commissioner that is independent of government, that is well-resourced and both seen and heard. We have long supported the ability for the Commissioner to investigate individual issues with a systemic impact. One case can often expose a system in crisis. It should be the Commissioner’s call, not the Government’s, as to whether that case should be scrutinised.
“It’s hard to believe that the Weatherill Government can now be trusted to properly address this issue. Any legislation that simply offers window dressing and a titular position, rather than real reform, will be reformed by the Greens in the Upper House.
“Since April 2015, the Government Bill to establish a Children’s Commissioner has not once been listed as a priority by the Weatherill Government. This is because they knew they Upper House would amend it to give it real powers. I was offended to hear the Premier bemoan that length of time this issue has sat in the chamber. It has sat there because the Labor Government has left it lying fallow.
“Let’s not forget that last year we had Minister Rau criticising members of the Upper House for not ramming through a very complex planning Bill. At the same time, as Minister for Child Protection Reform, he failed to prioritise a Bill to enact a Children’s Commissioner for the length of that same sitting year, so you’ll have to excuse my cynicism that this new found enthusiasm will not simply be crisis management.
“Children’s Commissioners are expensive, but so are Royal Commissions. Let’s not see more Royal Commissions required in this area. Let’s get this right and let’s get on with it. We may be the last state to get a Children’s Commissioner but we can still make sure it is one of the best,” she concluded.
Background: The Government’s Child Development and Wellbeing Bill to enact a Children’s Commissioner was first introduced in the Lower House in June 2014. A Private Member’s Bill to establish a Children’s Commissioner (with investigative powers) passed the Upper House in August 2014 with the support of the Opposition and the crossbench, but was defeated by the Government in the Lower House in October 2014.