Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (10.19 pm): I rise tonight to contribute to the debate of the Child Protection (Mandatory ReportingMasons Law) Amendment Bill 2016. Queenslanders face tragedy on a daily basis, be it natural disasters, road trauma or personal loss, but the callous murder of Mason Parker, a childa toddler, just 16 monthsis a tragedy that hardly bears thinking about. As a father, I cannot fathom the cruelty and heartlessness residing in the perpetrator. Many of us in this House are parents, and I confidently say that all of us here are affected by reports of horrific child abuse. Some reports are so horrendous that they make nearly impossible reading, but our job in this House is to do our utmost to protect our most vulnerable Queenslanders.

In 2011 Mason Parker, a toddler, was murdered by his mothers then boyfriend. The bruising on this little boys body was observed by childcare staff at the centre he regularly attended. Staff at that centre followed internal procedures by reporting the injuries to the centre director. However, they were never reported to authorities. They were not required to. Mason Parkers grandparents John and Sue Sandeman, here tonight, have shown incredible courage in the face of a great tragedy by campaigning tirelessly for the mandatory reporting we debate here. I want to commend the efforts of my colleagues the members for Aspley, Mudgeeraba and Hinchinbrook. I know that these members are deeply passionate about this bill. I also acknowledge the role that the minister has played in supporting this most important bill.

The reason this legislation is being debated tonight is to ensure that every possible measure is being taken to protect children in Queensland. Mandatory reporting laws are enacted in each Australian jurisdiction. It is widely accepted that these laws are an important component of the broader child protection system. In 2014 the Queensland Law Reform Commission reviewed child protection mandatory reporting laws for the early childhood education and care sector. The overwhelming majority of submissions received by the commission supported extending mandatory reporting obligations under the act to the ECEC sector.

The commission, in making its recommendations, had six key considerations consistent with fundamental legislative principles including the paramount principle of protecting children from risk or harm; the critical protective role of the ECEC sector in relating to children aged zero to five years; the fact that staff in these centres are in regular and direct contact with children and their families; that the threshold for a reportable suspicion under mandatory reporting provisions is currently confined to significant harm; that mandatory reporting aligns with existing child protection obligations for the ECEC sector; and that there is increasing regulation of ECEC services and staff. Those employed in the ECEC sector are in regular contact with children and their families and are arguably the best placed to observe and report children at risk of significant harm.

 

There are already a number of professions who work with children which are mandated by law to report child safety concerns to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. However, the absence of the ECEC sector reporting means that a child can fall through a gap with tragic consequences. Those of us in this place have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable Queenslanders—children too young to speak for themselves. Tonight we all help to give them a voice. In closing, this bill is a positive, important contribution to improving our child protection system in Queensland. I commend the bill to the House.

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