I am deeply disappointed that the Labor Party has today chosen to play political games with an issue as serious and important as the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
The Bill before the Parliament is technical in nature and will address unintended consequences or oversights in the initial drafting of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018. It will improve funder of last resort provisions and permit payments to be made to a person appointed by a court, tribunal or board such as a Public Trustee who manages the financial affairs of vulnerable survivors to prevent abuse.
Labor’s proposed amendments make no real changes to the Scheme and would simply require the Minister to “consider” issues and prepare a report.
The very same issues Labor has raised are already being considered under the legislated second year review which is currently being undertaken by Ms Robyn Kruk AO.
Ms Kruk is due to complete her independent review by the end of the month and it will be considered at the next meeting of state and territory ministers which are signatories to the inter-governmental agreement which underpins the Scheme.
Labor is fully aware of this review and its scope which includes a focus on all aspects raised in the Shadow Minister’s amendment.
Ms Kruk has undertaken extensive consultation with survivors and I believe it is only right to listen and act upon their feedback.
That is why the Morrison Government could not support Labor’s attempt at political point scoring which would only have the effect of circumventing the review to blindly make changes to the Scheme’s operation without considering the voices of survivors.
If Labor was genuine about wanting to improve the Scheme today, they would have supported the Government’s Bill without amendment and not made surprise amendments which were circulated to the media hours before being tabled in Parliament or being provided to my office.
The Morrison Government is absolutely committed to improving the Scheme for survivors who we recognise have waited too long for redress.
We understand the Scheme has not been without its challenges and the Government has sought to make continuous improvements underpinned by an additional $104.6 million investment in its operation over the next four years.
We are giving the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission the power to revoke relevant charitable status from institutions which fail to join the Scheme and we have taken away their ability to access Commonwealth grants.
In the first year after the Scheme was established in July 2018, 47 institutions joined, in the second year a further 176 institutions joined and now six months into the third year of operation another 223 have joined.
Labor also revealed their ignorance of the Scheme through its proposed amendment to name and shame institutions.
The Government already names and shames institutions which fail to fulfil their moral obligation to join the Scheme. The list is available to view at www.nationalredress.gov.au/institutions/institutions-have-not-yet-joined
As at 1 January 2021, the Scheme has received a total of 9,117 applications, 4,530 payments have been made totalling about $377 million and a further 540 offers are awaiting an applicant's decision.