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Attorney-General and Justice – OPCAT

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Tags: Corrections, Aged Care, Disability, Human Rights

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I have a question about the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Degrading Treatment (OPCAT), and the Custodial Inspector Amendment (OPCAT) Bill that is currently open for consultation.

As you understand, for people who are perhaps listening to this committee, OPCAT required Australia to sign up to the OPCAT convention and in ratifying that in 2017, Australia agreed to establish national preventative measures at the national level and also within each state.

Minister, the OPCAT proposal is for an amendment to the Custodial Inspector Act so that oversight would be undertaken by the custodial inspector. The concern that have been raised with me is that OPCAT is an important opportunity to include human rights oversight in a number of sectors where that currently doesn't occur, particularly in supported accommodation. We've become aware of many of the deficiencies of human rights in aged care through the COVID-19 period, sadly, and also for people with disability as well as in prisons and other incarceration facilities, psychiatric care units and so on - so, very important legislation.

There is a concern that if this moves to the custodial inspector that those other agencies such as aged care and the disability sector would not be within the oversight of the custodial inspector's duties. Is that what you would imagine, and can you speak to how the national preventative measure would be used in legislation in Tasmania to provide oversight of human rights in those sorts of areas?

Ms ARCHER - The legislation has to be compliant with what's being required in relation to what the Commonwealth Government ratified for the optional protocol to the convention against torture. They ratified that in December 2017.

Australian jurisdictions, including Tasmania, are required to OPCAT-compliant by January 2022. We're currently looking for targeted stakeholder and public consultation as well on the draft bill. That commenced on 13 November 2020. It will run to 11 December 2020.

If people want an extension of time, they're always welcome to contact the department and seek that. I expect anyone with any issues that they want to raise, can do so through that process. What I can say is we have to be OPCAT-compliant, so the legislation will respond to that.

The custodial inspector wears a number of other different hats. He's the Ombudsman, he's the Health Complaints Commissioner, and so when we provide him with extra duties then all of that is taken into account as to what role he's performing at any given time. He would be administering and being compliant with what the protocols are.

I don't see that that's an issue because it will address what we're required to address.

CHAIR - I'm going to move to Ms Haddad. Before -

Dr WOODRUFF - We'll make a submission on that.

Ms ARCHER - If it's a question on the public trustee.