Adjourned debate on second reading
(Continued from 18 October 2016)
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 16:44 :14 ): This bill aims to overhaul the method with which people who work or volunteer with children are screened before commencing their employment in a voluntary position. It will establish a new central assessment unit which will screen all applicants and determine whether or not they are prohibited from working with children. I understand this is in response to recommendations made by Justice Nyland, and the bill incorporates a number of recommendations she made in her royal commission report. This bill allows for screenings to be conducted every five years, rather than having a three-year expiry, which is currently the case for DCSI screenings. The system will also be dynamic, which will allow for prohibition notices to be issued as information about a person's ineligibility to work with children becomes available.
Given that the system will be dynamic, I would like to know from the minister why it is necessary to conduct another screening after five years. Surely a person's suitability to work with children would only change if they were accused or convicted of a prescribed offence. If this is the case, my understanding of the bill is that it would mandate for this information to be passed on and a notice of prohibition would be issued immediately.
With regard to who will be required to undertake a screening, I have a number of questions and would be grateful if the minister could clarify. I understand that, if a person does not intend to work with children for more than seven days in a calendar year, they are exempt from requiring a screening. Can the minister clarify that this would mean that businesses or individuals who host a work experience student would not have to be screened as long as the work experience period does not exceed seven days? Similarly, if a high school student elects to undertake work experience at a primary school, will they be required to have screening undertaken? Will the screening be required, even if the work experience is only five days?
Will a person working in Pumpkin Patch, a clothing retailer that sells exclusively kids' clothes, require screening? Would a person working in the toy section at Target be required to undertake a screening? Will employees of bowling alleys and gaming arcades require screenings? Further to this, the bill excludes people from requiring a screening if they work in child-related work in the same capacity as the child to whom the work relates, and for persons who employ or supervise a child where the work undertaken is not child-related work. Can the minister clarify whether a supervisor working at Hungry Jack's, McDonald's, etc., would need to be screened?
I have been contacted by a number of constituents who had been refused DCSI clearances but, however, had not been provided with a reason. This seems unfair as many felt that they had been branded for a matter of which they had no knowledge. I have been advised that a new framework for the act will include provision for the applicant to receive reasons why a prohibition notice was issued.
I also have concerns regarding clause 44(1), which allows a person who is responsible for a child, in respect of whom child-related work is or is to be performed by that person, and which requires the person to provide their full name, date of birth and unique identifier. This is so they are able to check via the online system whether the person has undertaken a screening. I understand that currently the act allows a similar request in that a parent or similar is able to request to see a person's clearance.
However, I believe there is a significant difference between showing someone a clearance which contains the details that can be requested in the bill, as opposed to requesting that information from someone in order to take it away. For example, a person who is volunteering at the zoo is required to undertake a screening. Currently, a parent can approach a volunteer in the children's zoo and ask to sight a copy of the person's clearance, which will have the volunteer's name, date of birth and unique identifier on it.
In contrast, the bill will enable parents to approach a volunteer and ask them to provide their name, date of birth and unique identifier. The parent will then have to take down these details, take them away with them and input them into the system to verify that the volunteer has undertaken a screening. In the first instance, a person is merely sighting the information and does not take it away with them. It could be argued that a parent could copy the information from the screening they sight. However, I would respond by saying that this behaviour would be questioned and escalated.
In the second instance, a person is provided the information to take away with them. I believe being required to hand over your full name and date of birth to a virtual stranger is a gross invasion of privacy, especially in this day and age of identity theft. I have raised this matter with the government and hope to come to a resolution before the committee stage.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.T. Ngo.