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Government still shocking on child sex abuse.



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Senator Andrew Murray

Australian Democrats Senator for Western Australia

13 Oct 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/729

GOVERNMENT STILL SHOCKING ON CHILD SEX ABUSE

Today in question time, Australian Democrats’ Senator for Western Australia, Senator Andrew Murray, put a question without notice to Senator Kay Patterson, the Minister representing the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, on the issue of child sex abuse.

Senator Murray initiated the Child Migrant Inquiry and the current inquiry into Children in Institutional Care. The Government has flatly refused the Democrats’ calls to establish a Royal Commission into the sexual assault of children.

“The Australian Institute of Criminology highlighted in May 2003 that the criminal justice system was working against the reporting of child sexual abuse,” said Senator Murray.

“In one appalling example, they cited a case study of a cross examination in a Queensland committal where the crying child was repeatedly shouted at and asked more than 30 times to describe the length, width and colour of the penis of the accused.

“I put a perfectly reasonable question to the Attorney-General: ‘Does the Attorney-General intend to coordinate through the Council of Australian Governments far more sensitive and appropriate methods of enabling reported child sexual assault to be effectively pursued in state and Commonwealth courts and jurisdictions?’

“The answer was a blank ‘NO’.

“To answer ‘no’ to such a reasonable question is a shocking and appalling indictment of Government insensitivity to the practical need to improve law and outcomes for child sex assault.

“Such an attitude means that children will continue to be discouraged from pursuing child sex abuse in court.

“The only beneficiaries of such an outcome are paedophiles.

“The Minister’s response to my question today showed an uncertainty as to what to say and do.

“That is not because she is a new Minister or one without feelings. That is because this Government is showing no leadership in this area and she knows it.

“It is time for Ministers with responsibility for children to stand up for them in Cabinet and to override the views of the wrong-headed and hard-hearted,” concluded Senator Murray.

Media contact: Grace Tan at 02 6277 5747 or 0417 174 302

(Appendix of Question 1812 with Notice attached.)

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APPENDIX

Question on Notice: Attorney-General's: Child Sexual Offences

Attorney-General's: Child Sexual Offences

(Question No. 1812)

Senator Murray asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 21 August 2003:

Given the findings of the Australian Institute of Criminology Issue Paper Number 250 of May 2003, which included the following observations: (a) when asked if they would ever report on sexual abuse again following the experiences in the criminal justice system, only 44 per cent of children in Queensland, 33 per cent in New South Wales and 64 per cent in Western Australia indicated they would; and (b) in a case study of a cross examination in a Queensland committal, the crying child was repeatedly shouted at and asked more than 30 times to describe the length, width and colour of the penis of the accused:

(1)Does the Attorney-General intend to coordinate through the Council of Australian Governments far more sensitive and appropriate methods of enabling reported child sexual assault to be effectively pursued in state and Commonwealth courts and jurisdictions.

(2)Does the Attorney-General accept and recognise that the way in which child sexual assault is dealt with in Australian courts needs to be consistent, fair and ethical; if so, how does the Attorney-General intend to improve highly variable and sometimes grossly offensive and inappropriate treatment of children in these cases.

Senator Ellison —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)No.

(2)Yes. State and Territory Governments are responsible for ensuring adequate protection for child complainants and child witnesses in prosecutions for child sexual offences under the State and Territory criminal laws. The Commonwealth has already demonstrated a strong leadership role in this area by enacting protections in Part IAD of the Crimes Act 1914 for child complainants and child witnesses in proceedings for Commonwealth sex offences to ensure that child witnesses are able to testify as freely and effectively as possible.