Speech on National Redress Scheme

Parliament House, Canberra.

Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (11:43):  The abuse of children in the care of institutions in our country has been one of the most appalling chapters of Australia's recent history. No country should stand by and let this horrifying sexual abuse and shocking violence happen, and no country should stand by and let perpetrators get away with these crimes. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its second interim report in September 2015. This report sets out the royal commission's recommendations for the establishment of a national redress scheme. Such a redress scheme, the commission found, can provide a critical part of the healing process for victims and survivors of this abuse.

Labor is very proud to support a national redress scheme that will relieve some of the pain of the survivors of these horrendous crimes and Labor is ready to work with the government to ensure that the sufferers of this abuse get the redress that they deserve.

Labor believes that the costs of redress must be met by the institutions responsible for the perpetrators of the abuse. These institutions damaged the lives of thousands of Australians, and they should pay appropriate compensation. The royal commission recommended that a national redress scheme should include a direct personal response from the responsible institution if desired, including but not limited to an apology; counselling and psychological care services; and monetary payment of between $10,000 and $200,000 per victim to recognise the wrong suffered. The size of each payment would be determined by criteria that assessed the severity of the abuse.

Labor is very proud to have established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I am very proud of the small role that I played as Attorney-General in the establishment of the commission. This royal commission has given an opportunity to thousands of people who are the survivors of these sickening crimes to be heard. For many, it was the first opportunity they had to speak in public about their ordeals. I acknowledge the extraordinary men and women who have spoken of their horrific abuse at the hands of institutions at the public hearings of the royal commission and at the private sessions that it has been possible to arrange under the legislation that we passed to establish this particular royal commission.

Labor understands the devastating toll that this abuse has had on thousands of Australians, including many who are no longer alive to see this royal commission's recommendations. Labor understands that thousands of survivors of institutionalised abuse are seeking an apology from their abusers. These apologies must acknowledge the wrongs that were committed and accept responsibility for the harm and suffering that the institutions have caused. Many of the thousands of Australians affected by institutional abuse have a need for ongoing professional counselling. The institutions responsible for the abuse must be held accountable and meet the cost of this counselling. Survivors whose lives have been changed by the malicious and criminal acts of their abusers should be entitled to appropriate monetary consultation. The compensation, for some, will help them to sustain their lives. For others, a monetary payment will reflect a small recompense for the mistreatment and abuse that they suffered.

Labor is pleased to see that the Turnbull government has recently and at long last committed to a redress scheme, although we have serious concerns about several aspects of the Turnbull government's scheme. Under the proposed scheme, states and institutions responsible for perpetrating child sexual abuse can opt into the scheme. This means that, if the institutions that perpetrated the abuse do not want to pay, they will not have to. We are very concerned that the government appears not to have made sufficient effort to enlist the support of the states before making the announcement of the proposed scheme. This is too important for survivors. They should not have to face this extra uncertainty. This government has had over a year to do this important work, and it appears that it has not done enough. Survivors of child sexual abuse have been waiting their whole lives for redress for the crimes perpetrated against them as children. They should not have to worry about whether states or institutions are eventually going to decide to opt into the redress scheme. Redress needs to be provided to all survivors regardless of which state or territory they were abused in or now reside in, regardless of whether the institution was a government or non-government institution, and regardless of whether the abuse occurred in more than one institution, whether the institution still exists or, indeed, the assets available to the institution. (Time expired)