Legislative Council: Tuesday, October 17, 2023


Social Workers Registration (Commencement) Amendment Bill

Committee Stage

In committee (resumed on motion).

Clause 1.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: What consultation was undertaken with regard to the preparation of this bill, in particular with the Australian Association of Social Workers?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised there was a large amount of consultation on the original bill, which, of course, passed and was assented to, and there has been discussion since, but I would have to take on notice what specific consultation on this particular bill has been undertaken.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I just got off the phone to the CEO of the Australian Association of Social Workers, and this is the first time she has heard that apparently this government will need 18 months additional. She was also in agreeance with my concern that there was no start date other than by proclamation in this bill and that it could, indeed, leave it unaddressed in terms of any start date at all, as we have seen already.

So I would like the minister to provide when she communicated with the Australian Association of Social Workers that this government and this minister was requesting an additional 18 months.

I would have thought the least that this minister could have done was talk to the body that in fact will be crucial to the success of this bill and let them know that apparently an additional 18 months was required, and also have at least done them the courtesy of correspondence with regard to that issue.

I look forward to seeing evidence of when the minister alerted the Australian Association of Social Workers about the contents of this bill. I am happy for the minister representing the minister to take that on notice, but I do expect to see that correspondence, unlike some debates where we see things taken on notice and then we never see them again. I really think it is way too important that the key stakeholder did not even know about the contents of this bill, other than we knew that you needed a little bit more time in terms of myself as the original mover of the original bill that became the act and the AASW (Australian Association of Social Workers) as the key proponents calling for this act.

Following that, I would like the government to explain what it is that they need to do with the next 18 months, what tasks have been done and what is yet to be done.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that since the original act was assented to in December 2021 the Department for Child Protection has worked with key stakeholders to finalise the scheme's implementation plan and this has included determining the staffing and financial needs for both the implementation phase and the ongoing delivery phase.

DCP and the Department of Treasury and Finance worked closely on the budget for the scheme, and funding was approved in November 2022 as part of the 2022-23 Mid-Year Budget Review. I am advised that at that time $4.7 million was committed to the scheme over the following financial years. Additionally, DCP has worked with key stakeholders to build the foundations for the scheme, both within the South Australian government and the broader sector.

It is critical that the scheme is set up properly and that all due diligence is undertaken prior to it becoming fully operational. The reasons of course, I am sure, are clear, that we want to make sure that this works as intended and that no social worker suddenly finds themselves unable to work in their profession because in some way there has been a lack of preparation in the phases that we have been referring to.

DCP also undertook an extensive recruitment process, which resulted in the appointment of Professor Sarah Wendt to the position of director of social work registration. Professor Wendt is a social work expert with a strong national and international reputation, and as director of the scheme will be responsible for its development and implementation. That will include appointing a registrar and registration board.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Under the recruitment process, when was Professor Wendt first identified as the candidate that the offer would be made to?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I do not have that date to hand, but I am happy to take that question on notice.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: When did the recruitment process close?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am happy to take that question on notice.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Did the recruitment process close under the CEO stewardship of Cathy Taylor?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: That will form part of the response to the question I will take on notice around the entire process. Obviously, once we find that date that will indicate whether it was under that CEO or not.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I note that the former CEO did media saying that the recruitment process was about to close. That was very early this year, so I would really appreciate responses to those particular questions. I understand that you have to take them on notice.

With that, in incredible frustration, I do have an amendment. I will briefly outline that my amendment would allow the government their now made known extension of approximately 18 months, but would enable them to enact this piece of legislation earlier should they choose.

I note that the government has now circulated an amendment that simply says that the act would come into operation on 1 July 2025, thus locking in the longest possible time rather than a more timely framework should that be possible, and I look forward to speaking to that amendment as we get to that clause.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I have a question for the minister. Why is it that the government appointed Professor Sarah Wendt—I think there was a media release about it—on 18 September, yet there seems to be no progression with this registration scheme? My understanding is that in the media release they said that they have progressed, yet we are here with the bill asking for a delay.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that Professor Wendt was appointed on 18 September and so these first weeks would have involved looking at the implementation plan, getting ready to establish staffing, and the other items that we have indicated that are necessary to establish this scheme and make it operational.

Clause passed.

Clause 2.

The CHAIR: We have a couple of amendments at clause 2. The first one is filed by the Hon. Ms Franks. Would you like to speak to your amendment or move it, please?

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move amendment No. 1 [Franks-1] standing in my name, in an amended form, as follows:

Clause 2, page 2, line 10 [clause 2, inserted section 2(1)]—

Delete inserted subsection(1) and substitute:

(1) This Act comes into operation—

(a) if a day falling before 1 July 2025 is fixed by proclamation—on the day fixed by the proclamation; or

(b) in any other case—on 1 July 2025.

The CHAIR: In any other case on 1 July 2025?

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Yes, I have changed January to July in my amended form. I think that my amendment is superior to the government's because it ensures a start date that is the earliest possible start date rather than continuing to see this issue not given the due urgency that I believe it deserves. Should the work be done, we would not want to be waiting unnecessarily, I would image, Chair, particularly as then you would need to get on with a whole range of other delegated legislation and so on.

With that, I do urge members. I understand that the government and I have come to an agreement about a start date being inserted into this potential act, into this bill, and ensuring that it is not left without a start date, and that 1 July 2025 is an agreed across all parties in this chamber start date, but I think my amendment is actually superior because it ensures that that is the latest possible start date.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am happy not to move the amendment filed in my name and instead indicate that the government will be supporting the amendment as moved in its amended form by the Hon. Tammy Franks, the reason being that the intention is to have this scheme up and running as soon as is possible. In discussions, 1 July 2025 was agreed to; if it can be operational prior to that then I think there is widespread agreement that that would be preferable. Therefore, on this occasion I agree that the amendment is superior to the one that was filed by the government and the government is happy to support the amendment moved by the Hon. Tammy Franks.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The opposition will be supporting the Hon. Tammy Franks' amendment in its amended form.

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Remaining clause (3) and title passed.

Bill reported with amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (17:42): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.