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Thursday, 2 September 2021
Page: 39

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (12:24): I rise to make a contribution to this second reading debate on the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2021 and to indicate that the Greens will be supporting this important legislation. We see this as a down payment on the changes the government needs to make to the redress bill. I've spoken about these changes before. The Greens articulated this when we were in this chamber debating the bill in the first place: the redress bill did not, to turn a phrase, fit the bill—it didn't then and it doesn't now. It didn't go far enough, and there were significant problems with it. And, because it was one minute to midnight in getting the legislation through, those changes couldn't be made, and here we are all these years later having to make these amendments.

As I said, the Greens see these amendments as a down payment. It is the first step towards implementing the second anniversary review, the Robin Creyke review, which contained many, many important amendments that the community and survivors and care leavers have been calling for for a long time. A lot of the problems with the bill were evident even before the scheme started. I am actually pleased that there are moves to pass this first round of amendments, so that some of these important changes can be made.

First off, the advance payments are particularly important for those ageing and ill survivors. We support advance payments. We think they're a very good idea and have in fact been supporting them for a long time. Turning to the issues around indexation, this is a major bone of contention with the scheme. It has been ever since the scheme started. I remember standing—at that seat over there, I think it was—and trying to move amendments to fix the indexation issue, because it is simply not fair. Survivors have been complaining and raising their concerns about this. Now, while this change is a small step in the right direction, it does not address the concerns of survivors. It does not go far enough, and I'm disappointed that we are still having that debate here. Another point that has been raised many times, including with the joint committee on the redress scheme, relates to extending review and acceptance periods. The removal of statutory declaration requirements for applications has also been raised many times, as has the payment of instalments been raised—many, many times, in fact. So we are supporting those amendments.

But there are many things that still need to be addressed. One of those—as the minister knows, because I have raised it repeatedly—relates to funders of last resort. I will say that Minister Ruston has acknowledged this and has made some changes on funders of last resort. This was a major issue when the scheme was proposed and we were debating the first bill. It was blatantly obvious that the funder of last resort provisions in that bill would not work. And, as we see, that has proven to be the case. We need to make sure that people who were in institutions that are now defunct—institutions that no longer function—are able to get redress payments. It is my belief that, if the application is processed by the department and it is found that redress is due, governments should pay it, and then argue with the institution. Governments, state and federal, should be the backstop in terms of funders of last resort. I don't want to let institutions off, by any stretch of the imagination. Institutions should pay their due for the damage they have caused to generations of survivors and care leavers. That is an area that the Greens will continue to follow. Institutions should pay their dues for the damage they have caused to generations of survivors and care leavers. That is an area that the Greens will continue to follow.

I would also like to just touch very briefly on the issue of Fairbridge. We had another hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme not that long ago where we heard some conflicting and concerning evidence around how the process is intended to work for those people that went to Fairbridge. I think we need to continue to pursue this issue, because I'm not convinced that this issue has been resolved. It involves the Prince's Trust and Fairbridge Restored. Whether there is going to be a separate scheme or not, survivors have conflicting understandings about the Fairbridge matter, and it needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency. Fairbridge operated homes in a number of places across Australia but particularly in Western Australia, in the south-west of Western Australia, and I am deeply concerned about ensuring that survivors get their due redress and for this matter to not be drawn out any further.

The Greens will be supporting this bill, but there is more work to be done. This is a down payment on addressing the issues that came up during the Kruk inquiry. I'd also like to congratulate Ms Kruk for the work she did in the second anniversary review. It brought out the issues that so many people have had with this scheme and that need to be addressed. Having said that, we will be supporting this bill, but we'll be keeping a very close eye on the next stage of amendments.