House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Committees

Implementation of the National Redress Scheme; Report

10:30 am

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme, I present the committee's report entitled Implementation of the National Redress Scheme.

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

by leave—I am very pleased to rise today to speak on this report as the Deputy Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme. At the outset, I would really like to extend my very sincere thanks and appreciation to the survivors and their families and advocacy groups who took the time to make submissions or give personal testimony through the public hearings. I acknowledge that it can be an extremely difficult process to revisit these matters for many people, and I appreciate the extraordinary generosity that survivors have shown in taking part in this inquiry.

I'd also like to put on record my sincere thanks to the secretariat and all the committee members for their incredible flexibility and willingness for us to modify plans at very short notice to take account of the impacts of COVID-19 and the rapidly evolving situation. It was terrific that we could continue this important public inquiry, even though many other committees of the House and the parliament were going into hiatus at the time.

I did want to assure survivors and their families and those advocacy groups that their voices were heard, and that their testimony was the impetus for the committee to provide an interim report. The purpose of that was that we have a mandatory two-year anniversary of the scheme fast approaching. There is a legislative review period built in for that two years, and this report that I table today will be fundamental in giving the government some very clear guidance and an understanding very much from the perspective of survivors of what will be required in that two-year review.

I might add that I hope the government, having been less than enthusiastic at the beginning about reforming this committee, now appreciates the value of having this input and a record of survivors' experiences of the Redress Scheme to date. It's become very clear over the course of the inquiry that the Redress Scheme continues to fail to deliver on its promise. It is utterly appalling that it is now almost two years since the Redress Scheme was introduced but fewer than 1,500 payments have been made despite the royal commission estimating that some 60,000 people may be eligible for this scheme. Most shamefully, we learnt that 22 people have died whilst waiting for their claims to be processed.

The role of the interim report, as I said, was to inform the work of this mandated second anniversary review of the Redress Scheme. We have presented 14 very clear recommendations giving specific guidance to the government on the design and delivery of the review. It also recommends important areas of focus around the issues of counselling and psychological care; the lowering of the monetary cap from $200,000 to $150,000; the unjust nature of the current assessment framework that's being used; our concerns around the application process, which have been ongoing; and the work-flow process, which is showing ridiculously long delays for these payments to be processed.

This report will also address some of those fundamental failings of the scheme, including shockingly poor engagement with survivor groups; the current unfair practices of indexing those former payments offered; and the very, very low rate of applications that have been received. Regretfully, many of these deep systemic and structural problems are ones that I identified to the last parliament when I last reported on the work of this committee. So it pains me greatly that many of these red flags were held up to the government more than 12 months ago now, and I am back again in this House repeating and trying to lay bare those deep systemic structural inequities in this scheme that still need to be fixed.

Another key recommendation of the report is that the government should consider an advanced payment scheme, especially for those survivors who are vulnerable. We have looked at international jurisdictions, especially in the case of the Scottish Parliament, who have really led the way in this regard. We took evidence from an advocacy group in Western Australia, and the people that they represent have already received their early payment from the Scottish Parliament. But two years down the track, those in the Australian scheme are yet to receive a single cent. That, I think, should illustrate to us the inadequacies of this current system. Forcing survivors to wait a day longer than they need to for Redress Scheme payments just adds further injustice to the trauma that people have already experienced.

Today, I would like to draw specific attention to recommendation 10, which emphasised the need to penalise organisations that were named during the royal commission or have been identified in redress applications received to date but have failed to join the scheme as participating non-government institutions. The 30 June deadline is looming. We know that there are almost 550 applications currently on hold because 284 non-government institutions have not joined the scheme. I cannot express my disgust strongly enough at that, because, if you were named in the royal commission, you have had five years in which to start getting your house in order and prepare yourself to be a participatory organisation in this scheme. The government then very generously, in my view, gave you an additional two years under the Redress Scheme to ensure that you did what was morally and ethically correct, and that is to sign up to be a participant in this National Redress Scheme, but you have failed. Now you have six weeks in which to join this scheme before that deadline kicks in, and that is an issue that this committee is very focused on right now.

Make no mistake, the government needs to understand that they are on notice to deliver on their promise to name and shame these organisations who have been derelict in their social, moral and ethical obligations to our community. The Morrison government must consider every means at its disposal to ensure these organisations sign up, including removing their charitable status and/or any other sources of public funding and concessions they receive, as well as naming and shaming these recalcitrant organisations.

The committee also recommended that a full list of organisations that have not signed up by the deadline of 30 June 2020 and those that have declined to join the scheme—and we know there are some, which are yet to be named—be published on the National Redress Scheme website, including the written statement provided by each institution, which will detail all financial benefits accrued by means of their charitable status and/or any other sources of public funding or concessions they receive. It would then be up to the minister to convene a meeting of all jurisdictions to determine and advise the action that will be taken. With only six weeks to go until this deadline, it really is time for this government to get serious about making good on its promise to name and shame those organisations that have refused to do the right thing and participate in this scheme.

There is no time for delay. As I said, these are non-government institutions, most of whom have had up to seven years warning now to get themselves into a position where they become signed-up participants. There are no more excuses. The Morrison government must act on now this report as a matter of great urgency. We know that this government has been kicking the redress can down the road for way too long, and this has got to stop. I cannot stress more the frustration that survivors and their families and advocacy groups feel right now. This is the second time they have come to a parliamentary committee to express their grave concerns about the current implementation of this scheme. If there are not some clear remedies to this scheme in the very short future, then I despair for survivors and their view of this government on such an important national issue. This parliament was joined in its commitment to ensuring a strong National Redress Scheme. Now is the time to deliver it. Survivors have waited all their lives for redress, and they should not have to wait a single day longer.

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