Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to oppose the amendments being suggested by the opposition here tonight and to support the contribution made by the Attorney‑General. The Attorney‑General made a contribution in the chamber tonight that was passionate and spirited and looked at what the implications would be if these amendments were accepted by the house. We are talking about the fundamentals of protecting children. We have heard in many contributions from both sides of the house just how important it is to protect those children who do not have a voice and who are not able to protect themselves.
We have seen through the Family and Community Development Committee Betrayal of Trust report the extent of the work that was done. Over 500 submissions were received by the Family and Community Development Committee, and a number of people appeared before that committee and gave their personal stories. Many of those personal stories recounted events that took place in circumstances where those people expected individuals to stand up and to try to intervene, but they were betrayed and let down.
We have an obligation in this chamber and in this house to ensure that we stand up for those children. When members of this house — whether from the government or the opposition — stand up and passionately defend those rights, I do not apologise for them. I support that, and I think that is what the Attorney‑General was doing here tonight. He was very much doing something that those children had not had somebody do for them — that is, supporting those children who have been betrayed and let down. We are talking about individuals who, if this amendment is passed, will not be able to have those people stand up for them in the future. The people who were let down in the past will continue to be let down in the future if we allow an amendment like this to go through. That is why we on this side of the house have to stand up. We have an obligation to everybody who appeared before that committee — every one of those 500 people who put in a submission — to stand up and be counted and to ensure that the recommendations that were put before that committee are accepted and ratified.
We heard the member for Broadmeadows make a contribution before. As amicable as that may have seemed, the member was on that committee and sat and listened to every one of those recommendations and every one of those reports and, along with the member for Thomastown, had the opportunity in that committee at that point to say, ‘This doesn’t stick’.
An honourable member — And Broadmeadows.
Mr SOUTHWICK — I said the member for Broadmeadows and the member for Thomastown. Both of them had that opportunity. When the recommendations were put forward they unanimously supported them, including this recommendation we are talking about here, about supporting the individual. Now when push comes to shove and we have an opportunity to ratify that in the Parliament in the form of legislation, all of a sudden the cards have changed and they are backing down from what was initially recommended and supported unanimously by that committee.
I understand that people will be passionate and will get pretty hot when they talk about this recommendation, because at the end of the day if we cannot support and defend our young people who cannot defend themselves, what are we here for? Of course we are going to be passionate; of course we are going to support it. The opposition can take offence; the opposition can jump up and down and carry on and say that the Attorney‑General is out of order. The Attorney‑General is not out of order. He is speaking from the heart — as everyone here has spoken from the heart. They are correctly and rightfully doing what is right, standing up for what is right and supporting the voices that cannot be heard and supporting the individuals who cannot support themselves. It is our obligation — it is every member’s obligation — to support those individuals.
There are protections for those who cannot support themselves, including and especially women who cannot support themselves, but we are talking about other individuals who may interfere with young people who will not be met with the full force of the law if this amendment is allowed to go through. That is why it is very important not to throw this bill out, to follow what we heard from the Family and Community Development Committee and as a result of the great work it has done, and to ensure that the bill is supported in its full form without any of the amendments that have been proposed by the opposition.