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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
30/03/2011
Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill 2010

CHAIR —I now welcome representatives from ChilOut, Children Out of Immigration Detention, to our hearing this morning. Thank you for making yourselves available. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear today?

Mr Manne —I represent the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, but I am also a long-term associate of ChilOut.

CHAIR —We have a submission from you which we have numbered 63 for our purposes. I invite you to make a short opening statement and then we will go to questions.

Ms Gauthier —Thank you this opportunity to speak in favour of this bill to establish a children’s and young people’s commissioner. This inquiry is happening very quietly, without a lot of media or political interest, but there is nothing more important in our society than our children. Without our children, who needs to worry about climate change? Without children, who cares about interest rates, carbon tax, GST, the Murray-Darling Basin or Work Choices? There is simply nothing as critical to the future of Australia than ensuring that we protect and nurture our children.

ChilOut is a volunteer run community organisation campaigning on the issue of children in immigration detention. This year we commiserate our 10 year anniversary. Perhaps if there were a children’s commissioner ChilOut would not have had to come into existence. Australia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child but has no single agency or body specifically mandated to oversee compliance in meeting our obligations in the way other human rights instruments have a body specialising in that area of concern, such as gender or disability issues. We believe a children’s commissioner will address this and provide the expertise in children’s rights and needs that is required.

Current issues that we believe need to be advocated by such a commissioner include that the conditions in which children are detained in the immigration regime have no minimum standards codified into law, unlike our prison system. This means serious offenders have more protection in the conditions of their accommodation than a child. State child protection laws bind state governments in their treatment of children, but there are no laws binding the federal government. A 2004 High Court case found the federal government engaged in child abuse as defined by South Australian child protection laws, but those laws did not apply to the federal government. We need a mechanism to oversee the federal government’s interaction with and treatment of children.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are in a particularly perilous situation. The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship is their guardian, responsible for protecting and nurturing children in his care. A guardian’s care should include advocating for the best interests of that child, obviously by their release from detention and in their visa outcome. But the minister is also the final decider in both the decision to detain and the visa outcome, and this is clearly a conflict of interest. These children are effectively left without an adequate guardian.

We have brought David Manne with us, the Executive Director and Principal Solicitor of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre in Melbourne. He has represented many families and unaccompanied children. He is an expert in this area and can go into detail on the legal situation facing these children. ChilOut believes the lack of appropriate guardianship cascades into a critical failure of responsibility to protect children in Australia’s care. We welcome questions the committee will put to Mr Manne about outlining their situation.

CHAIR —Mr Manne, did you want to add anything to that?

Mr Manne —The only thing that I would like to add to that is this. When we have the Commonwealth of Australia arguing before the High Court, as it did recently in the ongoing case of M169 and the Commonwealth, that it is in the best interests of an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker to remain incarcerated on Christmas Island instead of being released into the community on the mainland, we know that we have fundamental problems in this system which require remedy. Essentially, the Commonwealth is asserting to the highest court in this land that it can continue to detain unaccompanied children asylum seekers when all of its own policies and reports say the opposite.

CHAIR —Senator Hanson-Young, you will probably ask most of the questions I would want to ask and I will let you go first.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —Thank you very much to both of you for appearing and specifically to Chilout for the submission. It seems quite obvious through all of the submissions that we have got that the vast majority of them believe that there needs to be a children’s commissioner established. The argument is about exactly how it works, what type of powers this person has and there is discussion about whether this position is the appropriate position to take on the guardianship of unaccompanied minors in particular. A number of organisations have argued either way. Having said that, no-one has argued that the current situation where you have an immigration minister who is both the jailer and the guardian is acceptable, and that needs to be looked at. Why do you specifically believe that a Commonwealth children’s commissioner should have that role? Perhaps you would be able to answer this, Mr Manne: in light of Australia’s context of being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, are there clear breaches beyond the detention of children that you see Australia is participating in at the moment?

Ms Gauthier —Firstly, we very strongly advocate that as a minimum the guardianship of children does need to be removed from the minister for immigration. There are a range of options. One of the options which we would support is that the children’s and young people’s commissioner become the guardian. However, Chilout believes there is a potential conflict of interest there in that you would have somebody who is mandated both to investigate potential breaches for the treatment of children and that person being the guardian. That being said, it is certainly a much better arrangement than we currently have because of course the conflict of interest of the children’s and young persons’ commissioner is not about whether or not you detain that child or grab them a visa.

As far of breaches of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are concerned, they are multiple and varied and go across a whole range of areas. For asylum seeking children they are not just about detention and it is not just kids in detention; it is also the kids in the community. Some of the breaches are article 3.1, where the best interests of the child have to be taken as the primary consideration. The ultimate breach of that again goes back to the guardianship issue, because we have the guardian not able really to take decisions in their best interests. There are breaches on education, access to Medicare—a range of those other breaches. I think we have outlined them individually in our submission. I believe the Hotham Mission also quite clearly outlined the breaches happening for asylum seeking children in the community whose parents are essentially destitute and they do not have adequate housing, food or medical attention.

Mr Manne —I think some of those matters have been very well covered. I did want to briefly refer to the department of immigration submission because you referred, Senator, to the fact that there seems to be overwhelming agreement that there is a problem with the conflict of interest. May I begin by saying that with the utmost respect to the submission lodged by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which refers to the situation with the minister being the guardian of children in detention, unaccompanied minors, potentially giving rise to the perception of conflict of interest. With the utmost respect, the fact is that it gives rise to an actual conflict of interest. The person who is the detainer, the decider and indeed the potential deporter, that is remover, from Australia of an unaccompanied minor is also the person who ought to be acting in the best interests at all times of that child. So it is simply untenable. I think it is very important that the government and the department of immigration confronted squarely the fact that it is not just potentially giving rise to a perception of conflict, it is an actual conflict. If it does recognise the problem, it may well do something better than has been done in the past.

I should say that I have been working in this jurisdiction full time for over 10 years. During that period there have been regular overtures about resolving this actual conflict of interest and nothing has been done. I think the critical point here is that the department of immigration in its own submission suggests that some work is being done. Well, the time has come to move beyond the overtures about work possibly being done or potential conflicts to confronting the reality that we have an untenable conflict. Having myself acted for a number of unaccompanied minors in remote detention, I can tell you the reality is that the conflict plays itself out graphically and in very harmful and problematic ways. I will give you an example.

When I visited Christmas Island in 2008, we were referred, under the IAAAS contract, an unaccompanied minor, a 15-year-old Afghan boy, who had come here by boat seeking asylum. When I finally met with him it became apparent that for more than one week of being detained on Christmas Island he had been specifically prohibited from contacting his parents overseas. He had a telephone number that he wanted to use to contact them but he was prohibited from making contact. The point is that the person who was responsible for deciding whether the decision should have been made to prohibit that minor from making a call, and whether it should persist, happened to also be the detainer—that is, the minister or indeed the person from the department of immigration who had been delegated the responsibility of being the guardian. The detainer was the person deciding whether or not that prohibition should continue. That is a completely untenable and unacceptable situation. It is the type of situation that could well be remedied by a child having someone they can contact who is actually acting on their behalf as guardian in their best interests.

There are numerous other examples of a common nature that I have personally experienced over the years of being referred clients under the IAAAS contract. Just to be clear, under that contract we are referred clients who arrive by boat seeking asylum and then we act as their independent legal advisers in relation to their claims for refugee status. On a number of occasions I have personally been involved in the representation of children who are 13, 14, 15 or 16. When I met with them, they had literally no-one present or available to assist with providing instructions on life or death matters. We are talking about life or death matters: what does that child fear, what will happen to them if they return and what are the considerations in relation to their welfare? There is literally no-one other than me, as legal adviser, and an interpreter sitting in a room with a child to prepare a complex case with detailed forms and a written statement of claims. The only person that has ever potentially been available has been, again, the decider—that is the guardian or the delegated guardian of the minister, being someone from the department of immigration, which of course is completely inappropriate given that their role is to decide the case, not prepare it or present it.

This situation is happening right now. The department of immigration may well put in a submission suggesting that they are looking into it and that there may be perceptions of potential conflict. With all due respect, that is simply untrue. There is an actual conflict and, in a sense, it goes on. This is one of the various areas where we are talking about the serious cutting of corners in a situation where serious mistakes can happen if there is not proper support provided—and the consequences in this area are potentially no less than life and death. If we get it wrong in this country and the child is not supported properly, we could well be making decisions which result in someone being sent back to the real prospect of being persecuted.

Ms Gauthier —I would like to emphasise that point. In a lot of our discussions around immigration detention, particularly in relation to the guardianship of unaccompanied minors, sometimes we get sidetracked by the detention issue, the conditions of detention and where that child is being detained. Of course, that is a very important area of concern—the conditions under which we accommodate children—but that in essence is a finite experience. Deciding the visa outcome and the protection outcome for an asylum-seeking child is permanent and, if we get it wrong, the outcome for that child is potentially persecution and death. We need to have an adequate delegated guardian ensuring that the legal advice and the processes are being properly followed so that the visa decision is made correctly and that child is able to participate in providing the information so that a correct decision is made. If we get that wrong, the outcome is absolutely catastrophic and much more important.

Mr Manne —There are many examples of the fundamental flaws in the system at the moment because there are not proper guardians involved and there is not an age appropriate approach taken in relation to detention and to determination of refugee status. I will give you one example of many that I could offer. These things matter. Recently a lawyer from my organisation sat in at an interview conducted by the department of immigration. A minor was being interviewed in relation to their written refugee claims for around three hours. There are plenty of policies and procedures that indicate that interviewing a child or adolescent for that period of time could well be problematic for them in relation to their stress and difficulty with coping with that sort of process. Indeed, that was the case. Again, it is a good example of the fact that we need in this area—and we do not have this—proper oversight and safeguards, such as the presence of the guardian to intervene when inappropriate processes are being applied to the plight of children.

Senator HANSON-YOUNGThe forgotten Australians report got a lot of coverage in the end, which it deserved, and we had an apology and a lot of commiseration following that. One recommendation of the report that was unanimous was the establishment of a Commonwealth children’s commissioner. Given the examples you have highlighted and the goings-on in a system that you argue is fundamentally flawed and damaging to children, do you believe we are at risk of creating another mistake through this next generation of young people?

Ms Gauthier —You only have to look at how much money the department of immigration has had to pay out in compensation cases to children in the immigration detention regime to know that that is already happening; yes.

Mr Manne —I think the answer is yes. More than two years ago this government announced a fundamental reform of detention policy in relation to asylum seekers which promised to bring to an end the practice of mandatory, indefinite and arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and instead to use detention only as a measure of last resort for the shortest practical time. In that the government rightly recognised the profound harm that had been done by detaining people, including children, for prolonged periods in these circumstances. Their own policy statement at the time said it was dehumanising, was ineffective and was not a civilised approach that caused severe psychological and physical harm. All of those things are true and we are seeing them happen at the moment. We are also seeing the complete failure to implement that policy, including in relation to children. Going back specifically to your question, I want to draw upon the department of immigration’s submission—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —Their submission to this inquiry?

Mr Manne —Yes. I think it is very telling in terms of where we need to go, and it is not where they suggest. In its submission to this inquiry, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s central contention appears to be that it opposes the establishment of a children and youth commissioner—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —One of the only submissions that does.

Mr Manne —Yes, because the central contention appears to be—as far as one can comprehend it—that an extra layer of oversight is unnecessary. With respect, the current external oversight mechanisms are significantly flawed and inadequate. One example is this: the Commonwealth Ombudsman, which the department refers to as one of the key bodies of oversight, cannot review the detention of a child for six months. It is only after six months that a review can be conducted. Is the department seriously suggesting that it is adequate to only review a child’s detention at a six-month point?

Going on that from that, the review is confidential. So we have no idea what the review involved, what the Ombudsman recommended, let alone what the Department of Immigration and Citizenship did in response and whether it responded adequately. There is no body in Australia that has the role of reviewing individual cases and reporting publicly unless the detention is over two years long. That also applies to children. So the idea that we somehow have adequate oversight at the moment—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —Can you just repeat that?

Mr Manne —There is no body in Australia that has the role of reviewing individual cases of minors in detention and reporting publicly unless the detention has gone beyond two years.

CHAIR —Doesn’t the Ombudsman have that role?

Mr Manne —No, the Ombudsman does not have that role. The Ombudsman has the role of reviewing detention at six month periods. What I am saying is that there is no body that is required to review individual cases and then report publicly unless the detention is two years or more. The idea that somehow that is adequate and that we do not need further oversight beggars belief.

What we know from many episodes in the past, and history must guide us here, is that public accountability in these matters is fundamental. There are many past situations we could point to where there was not proper accountability. One of the key themes of the Palmer report was better and proper accountability and better processes. We do not have it at the moment. A child commissioner, I think, would be a critical development in progressing what is a fundamentally flawed system at the moment so that we had proper public accountability in ensuring that the best interests of children are achieved.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —I just wanted to pick up on one of the points that was made about access to education. Are either of you able to outline the current requirements to ensure that children in immigration detention actually go to school?

Ms Gauthier —For immigration detention there used to be the immigration detention standards and they had to be complied with in the contracting arrangements. They are actually repealed; they are not using immigration detention standards anymore. So standards of service provision are written into the contract, which is about 759 pages from memory, and it is very difficult to pull out the specific requirements on the contractor. It is almost impossible for advocates on the outside to oversee that process. What we do know is that certain states have requirements for the age limit in which children have to attend school. In the Northern Territory it is 15 years old. So they are sending children under the age of 15 to school up there, and we have heard that all under 15s are being sent.

However, the process to set that up has taken many, many months. There have been cases we know where children have waited three or four months, and on Christmas Island it is a lot longer; children over the age of 15 are not provided with outside schooling, and the type of education they are provided with in the centre is laughably inadequate—to put it politely.

ChilOut has really grave concerns for preschool-age children as well. There are a lot of very young children who are being kept in the—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —There are a number of children who have been born in immigration detention?

Ms Gauthier —Yes, born in detention, and there are a number of under school-age children—under fives. Those kids do not have external preschooling. There was a program running on Christmas Island for a while—that was cancelled. Those kids are going to have real developmental problems and, given the fact that the APODs—the alternative places of detention—are not set up or purpose-built facilities for long-term detention, recreation facilities provided to under school-age children is woefully inadequate. I feel horrified for parents who are trying to keep those children meeting their developmental milestones in a detention environment. It would be absolutely impossible.

CHAIR —If the FaHCSIA minister actually became the guardian of these children, how do you see that working—legally and logistically? How do you see that working? Would that need an amendment to the Migration Act, or new legislation in its own right?

Let’s be realistic about this; no matter which party is in government, both the FaHCSIA minister and the immigration minister sit in the same cabinet, essentially. Is one likely to rebut the other? Let’s be realistic about this: is one likely to say to the other person, ‘Your treatment of this child in this particular case actually needs to be reviewed’? Is that not better placed with, say, an ombudsman or somebody external?

Mr Manne —Our position on this is that no minister should be responsible, that the fundamental problem that we continue to confront is the one that you have alluded to; that any minister of government—sitting in cabinet or otherwise, whether it be the FaHCSIA minister or a special new ministerial portfolio—is not sufficiently independent from the whole of government and government policy.

The best example I can give you—and once again I want to come back to it—is the extraordinary disconnect that we have between policy on paper and practice at the moment. Again, I want to refer to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s submission to this inquiry. They state:

… children are only detained as a last resort …

They refer to the detention values—the policy that was announced over two years ago—that detention is a last resort, but then that there are ‘occasions’ where children may be detained in other areas.

This is simply untrue; the fact is that the opposite is the case. The fact is that hundreds of children—it was over 1,000 recently—are detained mandatorily, indefinitely and often for long-term periods around Australia in complete conflict with the announced policy. Whether that situation would change by having another minister with oversight of the situation is very questionable, I think. The real issue here is that it is not occasionally that children are detained at the moment; it is done by default, it is done routinely and for the duration of processing in complete conflict, really, with the policy. I do not see that being remedied by a different minister dealing with the matter. It needs to be someone who is independent.

CHAIR —Do you think it should be the children’s commissioner?

Mr Manne —The way that it has been designed in the bill certainly has significant merit. I should preface that by saying that I do not sit here professing to have specific expertise in precisely the best mechanism. On the face of it, I can say that it appears to meet the critical principles and objectives that are necessary to remedy this really serious flaw that we have.

CHAIR —The other option is to leave the current situation and the children’s commissioner becomes the person who children can appeal to or can make a complaint to or children can get them to advocate on their behalf.

Mr Manne —There is a problem and we continue to see it. The former, coalition government started the process of, if you like, liberalisation of the policy of indefinite detention of children and there were some reforms on that front. They were semi-implemented. Then we got a new government, a different government, that came up with, on paper, advancement on that, and we do not have implementation of it. It seems to me that what we see with successive governments is failure to actually implement what ought to be implemented—what has been promised and what is clearly needed, and that is, for example, in this area, to not detain children. It should be only a measure of last resort and not a default.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —In that instance, are you arguing that the mandatory detention element in the Migration Act that dictates that children have to be detained needs to be amended?

Mr Manne —There is no doubt. We have argued very strenuously and publicly for some time that what needs to happen is an amendment to the Migration Act which ensures, in a legally enforceable way, the abolition of indefinite detention of children. We do not have that at the moment. We have a principal in the Migration Act which says that children should only be detained as a measure of last resort, but it is not enforceable in the ordinary way. For example, a child who is detained for a prolonged period, or indefinitely, could go to court and say that the statutory right has been breached. It is not as clear is that at the moment. Clearly, there is a case on foot before the High Court, but the argument is far more complex. At the moment, the fact is that the minister for immigration is the person who has the personal call in this country as to whether and for how long a child is detained in this country. There is no legally enforceable right under the Migration Act or otherwise which can compel the government to release a child from incarceration.

Ms Gauthier —Just to quickly go back to your point, Senator, as to whether or not it would be enough to have a children’s commissioner able to review the decisions of the guardian, if it remained with the immigration minister, the person who has guardianship needs to be a person who can make the first-instance decision in the best interests of the child. Regarding a review or an appeal, it is not an enforceable decision by the children’s commissioner when a child appeals; the decision is still left up to the minister for immigration. We have seen—

CHAIR —Unless you have an act made it an enforceable decision.

Ms Gauthier —Yes. It would be great if the children’s commissioner had enforceable powers. But, if they do not, we do not think it will go far enough to protect children.

Mr Manne —The evidence is in, in a sense. We can talk all we want, but the evidence is in. We have a policy on paper that has promised something different for 2½ years. We saw this when we had the previous, coalition government: they essentially promised something different and it was not really implemented. History must be a guide here. What is clear is that we need a fundamental change, and I think enforceability is critical.

Senator BARNETT —I have two questions. Most of the issues have been covered, and thanks for that. You have referred to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship submission. I just want your response to point 8, which says:

Both the Ombudsman and the AHRC can investigate complaints made by individuals in relation to, respectively, administrative actions of Australian Government officials, and breaches of human rights.

What do you say to that?

10:54:21

Mr Manne —That is correct, but what they are really saying is that it is adequate. The question is not whether they can. The question is whether it is adequate. The central contention here by the department of immigration is that to have a child commissioner would be an unnecessary layer of oversight. What is clear is that the functions, the powers and the performance, if you like, of those current bodies is inadequate. Unless—

Senator BARNETT —So the government and the commission are not doing their jobs.

Mr Manne —No, I am not saying that they are not doing their jobs. I am saying that the powers and functions that they have are inadequate. That is what I am saying. When I talk about performance, I am talking about performance within the powers and functions that they have.

Perhaps I could raise the question again: does anyone seriously think that it is adequate that the first review of the child’s detention does not take place for six months and when the review happens there is no public accountability on what was actually recommended and what was actually done.

Senator BARNETT —The government would say that there is a failsafe there. You have got the Human Rights Commission and you have the government, which reviews these matters from time to time and would act in the best interests of the child. I am being a devil’s advocate. What do you say to that?

Mr Manne —Indeed, no doubt you will ask the department for more detail about it when they appear. The fact remains that there are many cases and situations where both bodies do not have to look at a matter, for example, for six months. And there are many situations where they are just not properly resourced, for example; it is not a central task and it is not their primary focus. As the Human Rights Commission itself says, it is part of what they do but they are not fully and properly resourced to investigate all of the matters that—

Senator BARNETT —I have not heard that argument with regard to the Human Rights Commission. In fact I have heard the opposite arguments about their resources. But, nevertheless, that is interesting to get your perspective on it.

Mr Manne —Perhaps you might ask them whether they believe that they are fully and properly resourced to investigate all complaints—

Senator BARNETT —I have never heard a government agency say, ‘We have too much resources.’ They usually say they do not have enough.

Mr Manne —and serious matters involving children, which can arise. But you might also ask the question: at the moment, given the absence of a proper guardian, are children well placed to actually bring complaints?

Ms Gauthier —In relation to DIAC’s submission, they have argued in the past many times that their functions were being carried out adequately and appropriately and that there was no need for any additional oversight. We have heard this from them many times before. They said that when they deported a physically and mentally ill Australian citizen overseas.

Senator BARNETT —Noted.

Ms Gauthier —They have said that many times. How many times are we going to listen to them when they say that they do not need any additional oversight? In the 2004 inquiry into children in immigration detention, they said that the conditions were fine in Woomera, Curtin and Baxter and there was no need for oversight.

Senator BARNETT —Point 23 of their submission states:

Neither the Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill nor its explanatory memorandum outline whether there would be arrangements in place to allow the guardianship to be delegated.

What do you say to that? Is it accurate?

Mr Manne —Are you asking whether it is a statement of fact, whether it is true or not or whether there ought to be—

Senator BARNETT —I am asking your opinion as to whether that statement is accurate.

Mr Manne —It does not appear clear to me that there is a fully developed mechanism for delegation. But presumably that would come. It would be developed in regulations. That is the sort of matter that would be clearly developed. Obviously a child—

Senator BARNETT —It is in the context of their point 23, which you have in front of you, in terms of how the commissioner could have the capacity to provide day to day care as required of a guardian.

Mr Manne —The minister for immigration is currently the guardian. He also currently has the personal call on thousands of request for humanitarian stays if someone fails in their asylum claim or some other claim. Clearly that is a job description problem if they personally have to deal with every child’s concern on a daily basis. So clearly there needs to be a delegation mechanism.

Senator BARNETT —Are you saying that it would be sorted out in regulations?

Mr Manne —In some way. Regulations would seem to be the sensible way of doing it—it is the ordinary way one would approach it.

CHAIR —We do not have any other questions, so I thank you both very much for your submission and for making yourselves available today for our inquiry.

Ms Gauthier —I would like to make one final point on the department of immigration’s submission and their position that they do not need additional oversight. As I was trying to say before, this position from the department has been stated many times in the past. They have said they do not need additional oversight and when the evidence has come out we have seen that there has been a failure in a range of ways in which they have treated people in the immigration detention system and in the immigration system as a whole. I would also have to ask the department whether, in all their advisory panels, they have people who are specifically child welfare experts as part of their advisory system. They are saying they do not want expert advice on hand to assist them in treating children in the immigration system. Are they really saying that children do not need to be treated differently in any way.

CHAIR —So on CISSR, which is the minister’s peak advisory committee, you have a woman who is a psychologist.

Ms Gauthier —Yes.

CHAIR —But you are saying there is no-one with specific child welfare expertise?

Ms Gauthier —Child welfare expertise and people who are there specifically for the issue. There is Dr Louise Newman, who has expertise in the area of child psychiatry, but she is not there specifically for child welfare issues. She can provide advice certainly on child mental health issues but there is a whole range of other issues which need to be addressed and the department is not being provided that advice.

CHAIR —That is a good point.

Mr Manne —And the department, in implementation, is the custodian of our international obligations in relation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in relation to the stated policy on the new directions in detention and detention values which the government still says is its policy. But it is not a child welfare agency and has no professed expertise in these matters. The other thing is that CISSR is the advisory body to the minister but does the department always check in relation to the areas where it does not have professed expertise with those who do?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG —Or do they listen.

Mr Manne —That is a question which may well be of great interest to many people.

Ms Gauthier —In their submission they say that they are ‘exploring alternative ways in which the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act could better meet the objective of providing for the care and welfare of unaccompanied minors’. I would suggest that that act was passed in 1946, that maybe they have had enough time to explore alternative areas. Maybe it is time to take it out of their hands.

CHAIR —Thank you both very much.

Proceedings suspended from 11.03 am to 11.16 am