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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14670


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (17:13): On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Oversight of the Implementation of Redress Relating to Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, I present the committee's final report.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Ms CLAYDON: by leave—The national redress scheme has been operating for nine months now. Some 3,000 applications have been received, which is just five per cent of the estimated 60,000 eligible participants in this scheme. Of those 3,000 applications, just 88 redress payments had been made as of the end of February this year. A further 22 offers are currently being considered by applicants, but that's a very small number given the estimated 60,000 eligible participants.

The committee's oversight of the national redress scheme's early stages of operation has provided us with a really important opportunity to make recommendations and changes to key legislative and policy concerns. This report has 29 wide-ranging recommendations to put to this House. Importantly, these recommendations were supported by opposition, crossbench and government members, so this is a unanimous report. It is damning in our assessment of the scheme to date. We note that the scheme is at serious risk of not delivering on its objective of providing justice to survivors.

The royal commission spent five years in a gruelling forensic examination of all the available evidence before it and it has subsequently provided us with a benchmark for best practice. This report has found that every time the government has deviated from the recommendations of the royal commission without any sound evidence to do so this has been to the detriment of the scheme and against the interests of survivors. It is a pity that we are presenting this report with possibly just two days left in the term of the 45th Parliament. Whatever the new parliament looks like, it is critical that the recommendations in this report are closely examined by government and parliament and are given serious consideration, because if this scheme is not brought back on track, if it is not delivering as it should for survivors, then this parliament will have done a grave disservice to those survivors.

We had an apology in this parliament not that long ago. As somebody who worked on the Prime Minister's national apology consultation group, I can tell this parliament that, without exception, what survivors told us in those consultations was: 'That apology is important, but we are going to judge you by the actions you take.' We will be judged not by words in an apology but by the way we deliver on those royal commission recommendations. We've been marked down pretty badly by survivors to date. This report is a great opportunity to reset and, indeed, to deliver on the good intentions of that royal commission.

As I said, there are 29 very wide-ranging recommendations. Some of the very important ones are around the fact that we've said that we should be restoring the maximum payment level to $200,000. For some inexplicable reason—and nobody who presented evidence was able to tell us why—the government chose not to adhere to the royal commission recommendations and went with chopping off $50,000. So it was capped at a maximum payment of $150,000. The committee said that there was no sound evidence for that; as the royal commission suggests, it should be $200,000. Likewise, we recommended that the scheme establish a minimum payment of $10,000. Again, that was a very sound recommendation from the royal commission that was not followed, and it needs to be followed.

There are recommendations around the provision of psychological and counselling services. It was very clear in the evidence that came before us that we need to provide lifelong counselling and support to survivors. That needs to be provided. We know that the experience of that trauma is often episodic in nature, and I have long argued that, if this parliament is capable of delivering lifelong counselling support for our veterans who suffer from PTSD—as indeed we should—we can provide the same thing to survivors of child sexual abuse. I am delighted that this report acknowledges that and follows the recommendation of the royal commission that we deliver adequate counselling services across somebody's lifetime, according to need.

One of the other very critical recommendations made in this report goes to what happens when you have institutions that are not signing up to the redress scheme. As of last month, a third of the survivors who had put in applications for national redress were left in limbo because the institutions that perpetrated those crimes, and sexual abuse on them as children were not participants in the National Redress Scheme. The National Redress Scheme website is, in fact, logging the people who have joined, the people who are intending to join and, if they haven't joined by now, the date they intend to join. But there are still organisations that have, to date, refused to respond to requests to join the National Redress Scheme. A very serious issue for this parliament is how to deal with those organisations. There has been some public naming and shaming. You can rest assured that survivors will be also doing what they can to name and shame the organisations that refuse to join or are dragging their feet to join. There is a time frame which people are given to join and it is reasonable that people have that opportunity, but, if institutions are simply dragging their feet for no good reason, that is intolerable. Indeed, there are no excuses for those who have already been named in the royal commission. They've had five years of knowing that these applications would eventually come. There's no excuse for them not having joined.

The committee, importantly, recommends the consideration of measures that would compel institutions to participate in the scheme and to look at whatever levers are available to the Commonwealth to do so. That might include the suspension of tax concessions and the charitable status of those institutions. Certainly, one would hope that these institutions would join of their own free will, knowing full well that they need to provide justice for survivors, but, if they do not, the Commonwealth has certain mechanisms available to it. The report by our committee, which, as I said, was signed off by all members, makes very clear that we should be exploring all the options available to the Commonwealth.

It is fitting to thank a few people on closing. First and foremost, I want to thank the victims who, again, gave so much of themselves to provide evidence to our committee. That is often painful and, indeed, it retraumatises some people when they recount their experiences of abuse and try to seek redress now. So I do want to pay respect to the courage and the ongoing generosity of survivors who just keep giving in the hope that we will learn from their evidence and make this redress scheme the scheme it really should be—the scheme that the Australian parliament wants it to be. We need to acknowledge those failures now.

I thank fellow committee members and acknowledge the work of the chair, Senator Derryn Hinch, my colleagues in the lower house, the Labor member for Oxley and, indeed, the Labor senator for Queensland, Claire Moore, who was a stalwart in all of the hearings, as was Senator Siewert. I'd like to acknowledge the member for Gilmore and also Mr Steve Irons, who is no longer on the committee but did important work for it. I'd like to acknowledge the committee secretariat: Dr Sean Turner, Ms Pothida Youhorn, Mr Antony Paul and Ms Brooke Gay.

I end with these few words: the committee recognises that no scheme can remove the trauma felt by victims nor adequately acknowledge or correct the wrongs inflicted on survivors. The committee's recommendations are however aimed at ensuring that, as far as it is possible to do so, the National Redress Scheme delivers on its objective of recognising and alleviating the impact of past institutional child sexual abuse and providing justice for survivors. The committee looks forward to working with the state and territory governments in meeting this goal. We can and should do much better than what's on offer today, and it's incumbent on each of us in this parliament to honour and deliver on those recommendations of the royal commission. Each and every time this parliament has deviated from those recommendations, it has been felt by survivors to be a betrayal. That is the challenge before this parliament. There are 29 solid recommendations that I commend to the House today, and this parliament and future parliaments should take heed.