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Children, Young Persons & Their Families Amendment Bill 2021 (No. 28)

Wednesday 22 September 2021, Second Reading Speech

[11.37 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I rise briefly to comment in support of this bill and the objectives which it seeks to achieve. The bill, as we know, seeks to strengthen the legal authority for Tasmania to participate in the national child safety data linkage initiative, known as Connect for Safety. The Connect for Safety system improves access within and between jurisdictions to material required for the purposes of child safety orders, actions and arrangements.

In cases where decisions are being made about the health, wellbeing and safety of a child, having access to all the relevant information is of utmost importance. Under existing arrangements the quality and quantity of information may not always be available. It costs valuable time and resources to obtain, if it is obtained at all. Put simply, the safety and wellbeing of children is clearly at the heart of this bill. Its purpose is to ensure that decision‑making authorities at the state level can do so with the best available information at the time. The Connect for Safety system will facilitate this.

Of course, the practical operation of the system must be considered. The first thing that comes to mind is that of privacy, not just for the child or children who might be concerned, but for any of their vulnerable family members or associated other persons. I understand from the Deputy Leader's second reading speech that Salinger Consulting undertook a Privacy Impact Assessment and found the privacy impacts were justified by the benefits the system provided in terms of child safety. In other words, the benefits outweigh the risks. I am curious, however, of what specific privacy impacts were found by this report.

Projects like these are not entirely without risks. I would like to have a better understanding of what these risks might entail and how they will be handled and mitigated. I also understand the Deputy Leader has discussed the issue of Commonwealth funding for the project to be implemented in Tasmania, and $3.867 million has been allocated to support the establishment of the system and the first two years of implementation. I am curious as to how this might be handled on an ongoing basis. Who will be responsible for the ongoing costs for upgrades, privacy, operation and troubleshooting and how much will be set aside for this?

It was also further indicated that a new, inter-jurisdictional governance group has been established to govern the initiative. Can the Deputy Leader please provide any advice as to who will be appointed to this group and whether the jurisdiction subscribed to the Connect for Safety system will have any say on who is appointed to the group? Who will represent Tasmanian children and their interest in this group?

None of these questions override my support for the establishment of this system in Tasmania. As far as I am concerned, as long as the safety and the protection of the children is held as the central concern, if we can streamline, save money and make existing systems more efficient that is simply a win-win. It will be good to have some of the answers to these questions but for the purpose of ensuring that the Connect for Safety system is swiftly implemented in Tasmania, I emphasise my support for the bill.

Mr VALENTINE (Hobart) - Mr President, I endorse the basic intent of this bill and the improvement of the information flow between jurisdictions, I really do. I was involved with the original child protection system way back in the late-1980s and I understand the need to have good information when dealing with children who are at risk. It is important that that information is available.

However, I also understand that there can be unintended consequences and I too am concerned about the possibility of certain jurisdictions having access to information that may not be entirely for the reasons the information was first collected. I think it is an important principle that we always have to be aware of, and that is that whatever information we are putting into a database, only those people who are accessing it, indeed, are only accessing it for the purposes for which it was originally collected.

The involvement of the Commonwealth, within this bill, does cause me to ask the question and to ask that it be absolutely clarified as to why the Commonwealth needs to have that information that is contained in this database. I know the member for Huon is considering an amendment there. Whether it goes forward or not remains to be seen.

I think most in this Chamber would like to know why the Commonwealth is inserted in the definition, in the front of the bill, where a 'participating jurisdiction', on page 4, 'means, the Commonwealth, a State or Territory'. It goes on to explain the only reason that this information can be accessed, but let us hear clearly as to why the Commonwealth should be incorporated into that definition. It is a concern for me because if you look further back on page 6 of the bill, it says:

The Secretary may only endorse a database under subsection (2), if the Secretary is satisfied on reasonable grounds that, as far as is practicable, the information recorded and stored in the national database is only accessed for one of the following purposes:

(a) for a purpose authorised or required by, or under, this Act, or another Act;

Well there are many acts that I suppose are Commonwealth acts, for instance, that may claim that they have a right to access the information. It might be the Family Law Act. It might be any act that is governing the department of families and children, or the Department of Social Services. I know that by not having the Commonwealth in there that might cause an issue as to how it can be guaranteed that Tasmanian information - the information on Tasmanian children - is not shared with the Commonwealth, but it is not impossible. It can be done. It is a matter of checking the originating state. I want some comfort when the Deputy Leader provides her response or, indeed, through the Committee stage, as to why the Commonwealth is in there. That is my main concern.

I expect there is a national minimum dataset associated with this database and that is being employed in this system, so that there is consistency of definitions and all those sorts of things. My main concern is where this information could go and what it could be used for. We want it to be used for the protection of children, nothing more, nothing less. I support the intent of the bill but I have that one major concern. I am happy to support it but I want that clarified, thank you.

Ms Armitage - Mr President, before the Deputy Leader steps down, I thank the Government for the answer. However, I was curious about the specific privacy impacts found by Salinger Consulting and to understand the risks that might entail and how they will be handled and mitigated. I am still happy to support the bill, but perhaps you could provide me with answer later, if you cannot do it now.

Ms PALMER - In answer to your question, a national Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) was prepared by an independent body for the Children and Families Secretaries (CAFS), and it considered the legislative enablers and barriers to the participation or jurisdictions in this national information sharing initiative.

The key recommendations from the PIA were that - 'The privacy impacts were justified by the benefits in terms of child safety; all jurisdictions would require minor legislative change to enable them to participate; and a range of governance and other processes were proposed to ensure the proper management of the system and information and the minimisation of privacy and other negative impacts. There will be robust governance arrangements in place to support the Connect for Safety system. These measures include all jurisdictions working to a governance manual and appropriate protocols, including the Connect for Safety User Protocol. Database access will only occur through authorised officers and those officers will have undertaken relevant training.


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