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Actions of Minister Petrusma

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Tags: Children and Young People, Child Safety, Safe Pathways


We have just heard the Minister for Human Services try to justify not telling parliament the truth over the wellbeing of 11 at-risk children -

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. The member will be heard in silence.

Ms O'CONNOR - The evidence is there in black and white, in the form of emails between the Minister's office and the department.

Mrs Petrusma told parliament that all 11 children had been contacted and were safe when they had not all been contacted. We could not be sure they were all safe according to the Acting Deputy Secretary at the time.

Do you agree that this is a most serious matter that a minister of the Crown would so blatantly not tell the truth to parliament over the wellbeing of children? On your minister's watch, 151 child protection notifications in the north-west were ignored. At-risk children were dumped with a for-profit provider with little to no follow up, vulnerable children were put on a Facebook buy and sell site, and there was interference in the role of the Commissioner for Children to the point the matter was referred to the Integrity Commission.

Last week an outstanding Commissioner for Children and Young People resigned three years into a five-year term. Premier, how do you justify the actions of this dangerous, shambles of a minister?

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. The House will settle down.



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I reject categorically the claims made by the member in her question - the unstructured and entirely baseless claims that are made and personal attacks that go to the heart of this. It is all about attacking the minister; attacking the person and not what is in the best interests of children who are the subject of a reform of a health system that was broken, and left to us broken by you and your government.

We are taking action to fix it with no help whatsoever from members opposite. They are doing the opposite from what the children's commissioner, whom they claim to come in here and support, has said we should do, which is focus on what is important - children at risk, not playing politics.

We have just had another round of it from the member for Denison who claims to care for the truth. Yet Opposition members have come into this place this morning and impugned the children's commissioner about reasons for his departure, which are entirely untrue. He has very clearly stated that they are not true. He left of his own free will. He left commending the Minister for Human Services and the Government for our efforts. He has called on all political parties to put political gamesmanship to one side and focus on what is important, that is looking after vulnerable children.

Not only are they happy to say the Children's Commissioner is a liar - as clearly you are suggesting what he has written and what he has said is false - but you are also happy to twist the truth for your own political purposes. These Opposition members should be called out for coming into this place and saying things that are entirely untrue. They try to put words into the mouth of the children's commissioner.

Then we heard the Leader of the Opposition come up with a silly conspiracy theory. She made claims that he had been pushed by this Government and that his contract would not be renewed. What evidence do you have to substantiate such a claim? You come into this place and say whatever you like, making a statement that has been refuted not only by the minister, and will be by me, but has been refuted by the Children's Commissioner himself.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing Order 96: answers should be relevant to the question. I asked the Premier to explain the contradiction between the emails from the department and what the Minister said in this place and to justify his minister's action.

Madam SPEAKER - I repeat my earlier ruling. It was a very lengthy question containing a number of different questions. Members opposite are allocated two questions and they get to ask many more when they put multiple questions within a question. The Premier is allowed significant latitude.

Mr HODGMAN - Thank you, Madam Speaker. The question not only contained a number of questions which were based on unfounded principles but also a lot of statements which were entirely untrue.

I make the point that not only are they happy to do it in their questions, and verbal ministers and try to misrepresent the facts and the truth that has been outlined by ministers, but they do it to someone like the children's commissioner, no less, to make their own political point. They will verbal the Children's Commissioner or claim him to be lying as to why he left simply to make a political point. The last thing he said to us was to work together and put your pathetic political games to one side and focus on what is really important.

For the record, again, and I hope the leader for the Greens will listen to this, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary has confirmed that the minister's office was provided with clear verbal advice that all the children in the care of Safe Pathways were safe, prior to her advising parliament during question time on Tuesday 15 November 2016. Since then, further and as outlined in the Minister's media statement issued at 5.30 p.m. on 16 November 2016, she clearly stated:

"All of the children in placements with Safe Pathways have been visited by a child safety officer in the past 24-hours."

Madam Speaker, the Minister did not mislead parliament. The Department of Health and Human Services told her office, which then told the minister, that the children were all safe. This has been confirmed by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to calling the Children's Commissioner a liar, it seems that the members opposite are now happy to call the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services a liar to make their own silly political points.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order. I take offence to the Premier's assertion. We did not call the Commissioner for Children a liar.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. I cannot hear the point of order.

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, I worry about the double standard in this place when other members are pulled up for calling people liars but the Premier is not.

Madam SPEAKER - A point of order is not an opportunity for debate. I still do not know what the point of order is.

Ms O'CONNOR - The point of order is I take personal offence on behalf of the Greens to him accusing us of calling the Commissioner for Children a liar.

Madam SPEAKER - No, you can take a personal grievance and be given an opportunity to address that at the end of question time. You cannot do it on behalf of a group. We allow it only for a personal grievance and it would be on indulgence of the House. It is to correct a factual record only. I take it that the member is satisfied and the Premier has finished.