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Child Safety Services - Resourcing

17 October 2017

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for HUMAN SERVICES, Mrs PETRUSMA

[2.46 p.m.]

My question relates to the death of a seven-month-old child who was the subject of two notifications to Child Safety Services in the week before she died.  Two people were so concerned about this baby's welfare they alerted Child Safety Services, yet the evidence strongly suggests an under-resourced agency was unable to respond in time possibly to save the child's life.  What is your response to an internal document obtained by the ABC that reveals child protection workers could not properly follow up the notifications because of staff shortages?  This documentary record quotes a team leader saying:

As you are aware, intake is really struggling at the moment with high levels of sick leave within the team and planned annual leave with no cover.

Minister, can you confirm under-resourcing of your agency is at the centre of this tragedy?

 

ANSWER

Mr Speaker, I also congratulate you on your appointment.

Every death of a child is a tragedy and my heart goes out to all those who are affected by this terrible event.  While there is plenty that I wish I could say about this case I cannot because, as advised by Tasmania Police, the investigation of this tragic event is still ongoing.  No charges have yet been laid.  The matter is now under investigation by Tasmania Police and as this matter will also be before a coroner, I am unable to comment further on this tragic case or any of the specifics.  I will not take part in a trial in this parliament.  It is totally inappropriate for the Opposition to hide behind parliamentary privilege and to speculate because that is what the Leader of the Greens is doing.

Ms O'Connor - I said it in public.

Mrs PETRUSMA - She is speculating and politicising around what they believe are the circumstances surrounding this child's death. 

Police have publicly stated that when they attended the address there was no evidence to suggest the child's death was suspicious.  That was in a police statement on 27 September 2017.  Tasmania Police attended the Launceston address on 19 September 2017 and there was no evidence to suggest the child's death was suspicious. 

Sadly, the Greens have sought to make political mileage out of this but the facts remain unclear at this stage.  No charges have been laid so I urge those opposite to conduct themselves with a lot more diplomacy and stop their public speculation on this matter.  At the end of the day we have a grieving family who want to see a lot more humanity from those opposite.  All members of the Opposition are doing is compounding the impact on justice for this family through their speculation and asking questions in this place today. 

I remind members that a police investigation is underway.  There will be a coronial inquiry as is the process for unexpected deaths in our community.  Any speculation on the circumstances by the Opposition could interfere with the administration of justice in this matter in both the police or coronial investigations.