CRIMINAL LAW CONSOLIDATION (FOSTER PARENTS AND OTHER POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY) AMENDMENT BILL

The Hon. R. SANDERSON (Adelaide—Minister for Child Protection) (12:38): I rise to speak on the Criminal Law Consolidation (Foster Parents and Other Positions of Authority) Amendment Bill 2018. This bill is yet another way the Liberal government is both tidying up legislative drafting oversights dating back to 2017 and strengthening the law relating to offences against children in care. I commend the Attorney-General for bringing the bill to this place, and I commend the opposition for their support. This bill seeks to make two amendments. The first is to clarify the definition of the phrase 'foster-parent'. The second is to include as a category of 'position of authority' a person employed or providing services in licensed children's residential care facilities.

The Criminal Law Consolidation Act creates, among a raft of offences, offences of sexual abuse against minors. While these provisions generally create offences against a child who is under the age of 17 and unable to legally consent to sexual acts, there are some circumstances in which the relationship between the perpetrator and the complainant necessitates the extension of criminal liability to include when a complainant is aged between 17 and 18 years old.

The extension of criminal liability is met when the relationship is one where the perpetrator is in a 'position of authority' to the complainant. The act provides a list of circumstances which would deem a person in a 'position of authority', including where a person is, among other relationships, a foster-parent of the child. At the time of the full implementation of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act on 22 October 2018, the official language and title of those who care for our most vulnerable children was changed.

Those who are caregivers to children and young people under the guardianship of the chief executive are, since 22 October 2018, formally known as 'approved carers', rather than by the previous title of 'foster-parents'. While it was initially anticipated that there be amendments to the Criminal Law Consolidation Act at the time the Children and Young People (Safety) Act was fully implemented, for the reasons the Attorney-General set out in her second reading explanation on 28 November last year, that did not occur.

This bill firstly seeks to address any potential ambiguity in the definition of 'foster-parent' to ensure that both an approved carer of the child and a person in whose care the child is placed under (section 77 of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act), such as a temporary care arrangement, are included. The second proposed amendment seeks to expand the category of a 'person of authority' to include anyone who is employed or provides services to licensed residential facilities who has duties in relation to a child, as well as to anyone in the administration of the legislation licensing those facilities who has duties in relation to the child.

Although it is well documented that family-based care is preferable to residential care for children who cannot live at home, and although I am committed to the expansion of family-based care, there will always be a place for residential care facilities for children and young people who are unable to be placed in family-based care. In my view, there can be no dispute that the law should not have any different impact to those children and young people in residential care as opposed to those in family-based care. Consequently, the second proposed amendment not only closes an obvious legislative loophole but is sensible and necessary.

As the state's first dedicated child protection minister, I wholeheartedly support any legislative amendment that will:

enhance provisions to protect our most vulnerable children;

serve as a deterrent to those who consider embarking on such abhorrent behaviour;

prevent the failure of a prosecution on the basis of ambiguity; and

ensure clarity to be able to prosecute and punish those who engage in the behaviour.

I also strongly support the proposed retrospectivity of this bill. I am not aware of any cases that will be affected by the commencement date of 22 October 2018.

I am proud to be part of this hardworking Liberal government which continues to look at opportunities to further protect our children and young people, which prioritises their safety and wellbeing and which is working hard to ensure that legislation is in place where necessary. I commend the bill to the house.