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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5009

Disavantaged Children


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (14:56): My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The member for Cook and the minister are denying the member for Fremantle the call. The member for Fremantle will begin her question again.

Ms PARKE: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management. What is the government doing to ensure that the most vulnerable children in our society remain a key focus for the government now and into the future?




Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (14:57): I thank the member for Fremantle for this question, and I know that she is particularly interested in the answer. In addition to all of the comments that have been made already in question time today by the minister for education and the minister for families, looking at the practical things that we can do to provide assistance to families who have children both at primary school and in secondary school, the member for Fremantle, along with a number of people on this side of the House, has been advocating for some time for the establishment of a national children's commissioner. This is an issue that we are giving attention because, as well as supporting families across the board with the costs of looking after children, we want to make sure that children, particularly those in vulnerable situations, do have an advocate absolutely dedicated to listening to their needs and making sure that the voices of children are heard, and that in our policy making—like we did when the Treasurer put together this budget—we continue to pay attention to the needs of children.

I am particularly pleased that I have been asked about this today, because tomorrow in this place we will be taking the important step of introducing legislation to establish the first National Children's Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission. The National Children's Commissioner will have the important task of promoting the rights, wellbeing and development of children and young people in Australia. This will mean that for the first time Australia will have a dedicated advocate focused on the human rights of children and young people at the national level, and it will see issues of children continue to be front and centre of the government's policy development, instead of sidelining these concerns.

Mr Katter interjecting

Ms ROXON: I take those interjections, because the point already made by ministers who have answered a range of questions today is that we are already heavily focused on the needs of children and the needs of families with children, particularly—

Mr Katter: You stupid, irresponsible person.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Kennedy is warned!

Ms ROXON: the cost of bringing up those children but also their needs. Whether it is making sure that there is more research, whether it is making sure that they have adequate advocacy or whether it is educational programs that can be conducted, these will all unashamedly focus on the needs of the most vulnerable children in our society. Crucially, the commissioner is going to consult directly with children and young people to ensure that their voices are heard and their needs are pursued. Talking directly with kids will signal that, as adults, we think that they matter, that we value their childhood and that we will listen to their needs and their hopes. This has been a longstanding policy of the Labor Party. I am delighted that we are now able to make this a reality because of a provision set aside in this year's budget. I think it highlights that, as well as being able to bring our budget into surplus and spread the benefits of the mining boom, this budget looks after those who are most vulnerable in the community, including those whose voices are often not heard.