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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13146

Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (14:34): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney-General update the House on the establishment of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse?

Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (14:34): I thank the member for Shortland for her question. I know that she and the member for Newcastle, the member for Charlton and the member for Hunter, along with people on all sides of this House, have particularly welcomed the royal commission. Those in the Hunter region have responded for a long period of time to the awful reports of child sexual abuse that are alleged to have occurred in their community.

I think in this House everyone is very clear that child sexual abuse by anyone at any time is a wretched crime. We know that it destroys young lives and we know that those young people are then haunted forever when they become adults. It is because of this that there has been an overwhelming response to the Prime Minister's announcement that a royal commission will be conducted. That response has enthusiastically come from all corners of the country. I want to acknowledge here as well the opposition and those on the cross bench, who have also enthusiastically and constructively engaged with this debate.

Getting the ground work right is essential for us to be able to ensure that the royal commission can work effectively and can investigate responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in institutions across the country. I want to report to the House that, as well as a number of meetings the government have been conducting with stakeholders, we have received more than 270 emails and 33 submissions—these are detailed comments that have been provided—as well as over 1,000 hits to the website. We are making sure that we constructively and carefully look at all of these responses to ensure that the community can have its say in the formation of the commission.

The submissions that have been received so far highlight a couple of important things: the importance of designing the hearing process appropriately so that victims feel supported through the process of preparing and giving evidence; and the need to appoint multiple commissioners with broad expertise. Legal expertise and child protection expertise are those that were most commonly mentioned in the submissions. Also the view of many who have put in comments to the government is that the commission should take whatever time is needed to get it right but also include timely reporting, with suggestions of every one or two years, with the recognition that the commission will need sufficient time to investigate thoroughly.

Importantly, though, these 300-odd emails and submissions from stakeholders have sent a very strong message—that the commission needs to focus on systemic issues of child sexual abuse to make sure that recommendations can be implemented in a timely manner. It is very clear that the community wants the commission and all governments across Australia to do everything we can to make sure that what has happened in the past is never allowed to happen again. Therefore this will be a priority for our government and an important issue for society as a whole to confront to ensure that we do all we can to stop this type of pain occurring again in the future. (Time expired)