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Thursday, 23 June 2011
Page: 3679

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (12:17): Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator LUDWIG: Thank you, Mr President. It seems incumbent upon the government also to state its position. The government does not support the motion. It is not that we do not have—in my personal view and in the government's view—enormous sympathy for child abuse victims. This is not about examining that issue per se; this seems to be about going back and examining a matter that has a number of times been seized by the Senate, with reports and information provided. We seem to have gone through this a range of times. On that basis, I am not sure of the utility of another inquiry in relation to this. If there is any evidence of child abuse, it should be reported to the authorities and the authorities should be dealing with it appropriately. If there are any allegations in relation to concealment of evidence, that is also a matter that should be pursued through the relevant authorities. The Senate is not an appropriate body to be doing inquiries of that nature. The Senate has created a wide remit for what it may look into. It has looked into this on a number of occasions and I am not sure that the Senate would be well served by looking into this specific issue again.

That is not to detract from what occurred in circa 1988 to 1990. That issue is well known in the public domain and the circumstances surrounding that are well known in the Senate. For those reasons, the government will not be supporting the motion, but I reiterate the importance of highlighting the fact that from the governĀ­ment's perspective the issue of child abuse is an important issue. It is a matter that is being addressed through the various portfolios which have responsibility and through a COAG process, and I would encourage people to use the appropriate forums. (Time expired)

Senator XENOPHON: Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you for the indulgence of making a second short statement. This motion deals with the issue quite differently from the way that other inquiries into this area have dealt with it. It deals fundamentally, first and foremost, with issues of law reform in relation to the destruction of documents that could be used in legal proceedings. It deals with issues of cabinet-in-confidence. It deals with the way that people have been dealt with in this matter in a way that has not been previously traversed. It is not about digging up old ground; it is about dealing with fresh matters and about fundamental law reform.

The issue here is that the victim at the centre of this was a 14-year-old girl who was raped in 1988 while at John Oxley Youth Detention Centre, and the perpetrators have never been charged. Yet this woman apparently received a payout from the Queensland government just last year. She has had a confidentiality clause attached to that payout and she has been gagged from speaking out. She needs to have her voice heard about this. This is about unfinished business that needs to be resolved. It is not about traversing old ground.

I would urge Senator Fielding to reconsider his position. I am sorry that the matter was only lodged yesterday, but it is something that my office has been working on for some time. I have had good discusĀ­sions with Senator Fielding's office about this. If Senator Fielding is of a mind to have further discussions right now, I would move that this matter be postponed till later—if that can be done and if there are other matters to deal with—so that I can continue these discussions. But I would urge the Senate to consider this given that there are new matters. There is unfinished business and the victim deserves the right to be heard.