Rhonda Parker

Rhonda Parker


    Response to Opposition statements about child prostitution

    8/11/1999 8:54 PM

    Family and Children’s Services Minister Rhonda Parker said that she has never and will never accept children working as prostitutes on the streets of Perth ‘with a shrug of the shoulders’.

    “Statements in a media statement by the Opposition’s Alan Carpenter and Diana Warnock suggesting otherwise are simply outrageous,” Mrs Parker said.

    “No child should work as a prostitute.

    “The first point I want to make is that the most stringent penalties ought to be applied to those who seek out a prostitute under the age of 18.

    “There is a wide range of Government and non-Government agencies in the inner city and Northbridge area who have a responsibility to work together to provide the appropriate response when children are found in such a circumstance.

    “It is odd in this context that only two weeks ago Mr Carpenter attacked Perth City Mission over its On-Track program, a new service in the inner city area which will work with at-risk young people with drug problems.

    “Family and Children’s Services Officers act on every report of children working as prostitutes.

    “It is wrong to give the impression that the department’s officers would not act on such complaints. However, the facts are that very few referrals of young people working as prostitutes have been received.

    “A welfare response on its own will not however solve the problem.

    “Experience in a recent case in which I became personally involved has shown that taking out a care and protection order is not enough on its own to prevent a young person at risk, and determined to work as a prostitute, from continuing to do so.

    “Because of changes to relevant legislation by the former Labor Government which came into effect in 1991, the Government no longer has the ability to detain young people against their will on the basis of welfare concerns.

    “Taking out a care and protection order before the Children’s Court does not enable the Department of Family and Children’s Services to physically detain a child in a foster placement against their will.

    “In these difficult and extreme cases, when seeking to provide care and protection to a young person at risk, the inability to detain the child is a major part of the problem.

    “I believe that in Western Australia we need to look at a model that allows for family or Government initiated referrals of children into compulsory treatment for drug addiction when they are found in these extreme circumstances.

    “In relation to the budget, Mr Carpenter continues to misrepresent the budget realities for my portfolio.

    “He knows, as it has been repeatedly explained to him in much detail, that:

    “Since I became the Minister, the budget allocation for the Family and Children’s Services portfolio increased from $134 million in 1996/97 to more than $160 million in 1999-2000.

    “That record compares to successive cuts in the budget and in staff numbers when Labor was last in office.

    “From 1998-99 to 1999-2000 the budget for Family and Children’s Services has effectively increased by $8.45 million.

    “Mr Carpenter is using the same misleading tactic he used during the budget estimates debates.

    “He continually compares actual spending levels for 1998-99 with forward estimates for 1999-2000, which is a totally invalid comparison.

    “Unlike forward estimates at the beginning of a financial year, actual spending levels at the end of a financial year include such items as carry overs and unforseen expenditure items.

    “For example Mr Carpenter argues that the budget in the Children’s Services area has been reduced by $900,000.

    “The fact is that as part of the State Government’s commitment to expand the four year old program, the responsibility for it with the corresponding budget allocation of $950,000 has been transferred to the Education Department.

    “The money is still being spent on the same service by another Department and there are many more examples like this that have been explained to Mr Carpenter in much detail. However, for whatever reason, he continues to make these incorrect statements.”

    Media contact: Owen Cole 9481 7810