Child Protection

Mr WINGARD(Mitchell) (12:33): I rise also to speak in support of the motion put forward by the member for Adelaide:

That this house condemns the Labor government's record on child protection and in particular notes�

   (a)    the average waiting times on the Child Abuse Report Line having extended greater than one hour in 2016, compared to 10 minutes in 2012 and 20 minutes in 2015;

   (b)    that over 200 children and young people currently live in emergency care as compared to zero in 2002;

   (c)    that almost half of calls to the Child Abuse Report Line go unanswered and of those answered, the majority are closed with no action due to a lack of resourcing; and

   (d)    the number of children under the guardianship of the minister has reached a record high of 3,280, showing that more needs to be done in the areas of prevention, early intervention and rehabilitation.

As we look back over the history of this government's efforts in this area, it is alarming to note the number of reports and inquiries that have gone on since 2003 under this government and potentially before.

If we do take note from since 2003 that is more than 10 years under this Weatherill Labor government. We saw the Layton report back in March 2003, a 400-page report into child protection put together by Robyn Layton QC. The findings from that are amazing when we look at them.

  After that review found that the state's criminal justice system was failing children and that the government's child protection services were struggling to cope with demand, the amazing upshot of that was the key recommendation to appoint a commissioner for children and young people and a guardian for children. That was the key recommendation and I note again that this was back in March 2013 and the government failed to act.

There were more reports after that, too. There was the Mullighan inquiry in April 2008, where retired Supreme Court judge Ted Mullighan QC was given responsibility to inquire into any allegation of sexual abuse of a person in state care, whether or not any allegation was previously made or reported, in 2004. So, that was another inquiry held after the Layton report.

There was a parliamentary select committee on Families SA in November 2009, which received 92 written secret submissions and heard evidence from 38 witnesses, including departmental whistleblowers, who gave evidence to that inquiry. Again, very little was done by this government and things continued to deteriorate. It is a very sad indictment on this government's performance in the area of child protection.

I would like to think that it saddens everyone in this house and all the South Australian community that nothing has been done. I commend the member for Adelaide for bringing forward this motion to bring attention to this point to the house and to the people of South Australia. The member for Fisher said that this was about creating headlines, but this is actually about putting all the facts on the table.

We move on with the reports. In 2013, the Debelle inquiry was held. This independent education inquiry was launched after it was revealed in state parliament in November 2012 that parents of a western suburbs school were kept in the dark for two years after an out-of-school hours care worker had been arrested and later found guilty of the rape of a girl in the care of the school, who was aged seven absolutely abominable, horrendous and disgusting in every way, shape or form. As I stress, inquiries and select committees have been going on and on for more than 10 years, and this government has failed to act.

Of course, we know that in April 2015 there was a coronial inquest into the death of Chloe Valentine, where State Coroner Mark Johns held an inquiry into the 2012 death of four-year-old Chloe Valentine, who had been the subject of more than 20 reports to Families SA before losing her life. It is horrendous. Most people in the community know that story. It is terrible that so much went unattended to by the department, and that that was where we ended up.

Then, of course, we had the Nyland royal commission. Again, the member for Adelaide has made a number of very good points about this along the way. What was unearthed here was a culture of secrecy, unwieldy bureaucracy, a lack of resources and a failure to put children first, which is what I think appals everyone on this side of the chamber most definitely. That should not be accepted here in our state.

Child protection and the protection of those most vulnerable, especially young children, is incredibly important, and that is why on this side of the house our leader has made it imperative that we put the appropriate attention on this, and has set aside the task for the member for Adelaide, who is now acting in the shadow role of child protection. We see it as a key pillar of what we would be delivering in government, namely, protection of young people. Having a minister specifically for child protection I think is a great initiative.

There is more than a decade of mess here that needs to be fixed up and it needs that specific attention. It really is a blight on South Australia's copybook that we have found ourselves in this situation. I think everyone feels a sense of shame that it has dragged on for so long. As I pointed out before, the last election that we contested called for some changes to happen. We called for the Department for Child Protection to be established and we called for the implementation of the recommendation from the 2013 report for a commissioner for children and young people. Eventually, the Premier listened and eventually that has come to bear.

As I said, I have gone through all those inquiries, all those committees and all those reports, and a royal commission is what it took to get to that point, yet we had been calling for that for a long time before. It is a shame that it took so long. It is an indictment on this government. The South Australian Labor government that has brought us to this position really has made a heck of a mess of child protection in South Australia.

I was also disappointed to hear the member for Fisher before making a very personal attack on the member for Adelaide someone who has worked very hard in this space. The member for Fisher indicated that the member for Adelaide brought this motion on to create headlines. I think that is a pretty low claim to make. She also had a go at her for her past. The member for Adelaide has been a very successful business person in Adelaide. I think the member for Fisher did get very personal. On reflection, she would probably regret those comments because they were very personal and this is not about personal attacks.

This is about fixing a problem in South Australia that has been going on for more than a decade and escalating and escalating. What the member for Adelaide has done is point out the fact that there have been a number of reports that have raised red flags, admitted there are problems and pointed out the problems that we have in the system, yet this South Australian Labor government continued to ignore them. As the member for Fisher wants to talk about headlines, I note with interest The Advertiser headline on Wednesday 22 June 2016. The headline reads:

SA's dysfunctional child protection system has failed our most vulnerable again and again. It's design was the Premier's first major reform and he's defended it across years of scandals. Now, he's finally admitted

'I was wrong'

'Families SA to be split off and boss shunted. System 'in crisis'.

That is right, this was put together by the Premier. It was his first major reform and it failed over more than a decade. There were numerous reports outlining the failures, numerous red flags, but this government did not listen. On this side of the house, we see child protection as a number one key imperative for any government. Again, I stress the point that that is why a Marshall Liberal government will put in place a minister specifically for child protection to help correct the mess that has been created over such a long period of time. We will work tirelessly to fix the mess that South Australians have endured in this child protection space and do everything in our powers to prevent anything like what we have seen from happening again.

Authorised by Corey Wingard MP, Member for Gibson. Level 2, 1 Milham Street Oaklands Park SA 5046. ©Copyright / Legal / Login