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Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill 2010

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Commonwealth Commissioner for

Children and Young People Bill 2010

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

Circulated by authority of Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

 

 

This bill was introduced by the Australian Greens in the 42 nd Parliament. The following explanatory memorandum reflects the debate at the time of the bill’s original introduction.

 

GENERAL OUTLINE: Policy Rationale

 

The Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People Bill 2010 seeks to establish an independent statutory office of Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People, to advocate at a national level for the needs, rights and views of people below the age of eighteen. 



Along with promoting the rights of children and young people, the Commission would monitor and review laws, policies and practices which impact on service provision.  The establishment of a Commonwealth Commissioner for children and young people will also help move the approach beyond a narrow focus only on neglect and abuse to encompass broader concepts of overall safety and wellbeing for children and young people. 



As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia has a responsibility in upholding the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, which are essentially underpinned by four paramount principles.  By cementing our international obligations in legislation, the Bill provides a clear framework of minimum human rights standards to ensure the wellbeing of our children and young people. 



FINANCIAL IMPACT:

 

The establishment of an Office of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People will entail a financial cost for administrative purposes.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES



Clause 1 - Short title



This clause provides for the Act, when enacted, to be cited as the Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2010.

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

This clause provides for sections 1 to 2 of the Act to commence on the day it receives Royal Assent, and sections 3 to 30 to commence within six months of Royal Assent.

 

Clause 3 - Objects



This clause identifies that the object of this Bill is to establish an independent Commissioner for children and young people to advocate on a national level for the needs, views and rights of people under eighteen; to monitor the development of laws affecting children and young people; coordinate related policies, programs and funding; and proactively engage children and young people in the decisions that affect them.

This clause also identifies Articles 2, 4, 6, and 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as integral to the role of the Commissioner in assisting Australia meet its international obligations.



Clause 4 - Principles underlying this Act



This clause identifies the principles from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that are applied to the Commissioner when exercising his/her powers.



Clause 5 - Definitions



This section explains the key definitions of the Act



Clause 6 - Operation of State and Territory laws



This clause highlights that the operation of this Act is not intended to exclude or limit the operation of a similar state or territory law that is capable of working concurrently with this Act.



Clause 7 - Extension to external Territories

 

This clause ensures that the Act applies to all external territories.  This is particularly important for asylum seekers under eighteen who are held on Christmas Island.

 

Part 2 - Office of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People

 

 

   Division 1 - Establishment 



Clause 8 - Establishment



This clause outlines the establishment of the office of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People, consisting of the Commissioner and a Deputy Commissioner if required.



Division 2 - Functions and powers of the Commissioner



Clause 9 - Functions and powers of Commissioner



This clause sets out the key functions and powers of the Commissioner in relation to all children and young people in Australia regardless of their citizenship or residency status.

Some of the key functions include:

- Providing national leadership in monitoring and advocating for the well being of Australian children and young people

- Reviewing existing laws; proposing new policies; and conducting research

- Promoting and protecting the rights of children and young people in immigration detention, and acting as the legal guardian of unaccompanied minors who arrive in Australia without the requisite visa;

- Promoting strong education programs.





 

   Clause 10 - How the Commissioner if to perform functions 



These provisions deal with the role, responsibilities and function of the Commissioner and guidelines on how their tasks are to be carried out. In particular the Commissioner is required to:

- Consult with children and young people, their parents and guardians, and their educators;
 

  -Adopt work practices that ensure the Office of the Commissioner is accessible to children and young people and encourages their participation; 

 

  -Consult with relevant agencies, bodies and organisations. 



Clause 11 - Commissioner must act independently



This provision states that the Commissioner must act independently, and may report to Parliament on any matter related to his or her functions.



Clause 12 - Cooperation with other agencies



The first provision outlines that the Commissioner must work cooperatively with other Commonwealth agencies that provide or deal with services or issues affecting children and young people.



The second provision states that the Commissioner must consult with State and Territory Governments to develop agreements around the cooperation and interaction between the Office of the Commissioner and relevant State and Territory bodies.

 

 

   Part 3 - Appointments and staffing for the Office of the Commissioner 



Division 1 - The Commissioner



Clauses 13 - 21



These provisions give guidelines for the appointment of the National Commissioner for Children and Young people and their employment terms and conditions. Further to these general guidelines, these provisions also allows for an Acting Commissioner to be appointed if the National Commissioner is absent.



Clause 22 - Appointment of Deputy Commissioners



These provisions provide the guidelines for the appointment of one or more Deputy Commissioners to assist the Commissioner.
 

    

Division 2 - Staff, consultants and delegations



Clauses 23 and 24



These provisions outline the guidelines for the appointment of staff, and the engagement with consultants.



Part 4 - Other Matters



Clause 25 - Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child



This provisions outlines the role and responsibility of the Commissioner in preparing and presenting reports on behalf of Australia to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Importantly, this section also ensures that nothing prevents the Minister from preparing and transmitting other reports to the UN Committee.



Clause 26 - Annual reports



This section outlines the guidelines for which the Commissioner is required to prepare an annual report on the operations of the Office of the Commissioner for that year.



Clause 27 - Review of operation of Act



This provision outlines that a review of the Act must be undertaken 2 years after the commencement of this Act, with a written report about the review to be undertaken and tabled in Parliament.



Clause 28 - 30 are consequential amendments.