Senate debates

Thursday, 23 June 2011


Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee; Reference

12:10 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

This relates to matters that have a long history in what many regard as the Heiner affair. I note Senator Joyce's previous advocacy in relation to this. I have had discussions with my colleague Senator Brown from the Australian Greens in relation to this. My understanding is that they may not be of the mind to support this motion. In the event that this motion is not passed, I will continue to advocate for the passage of this or a similar motion. In good faith, I will have discussions with my colleagues in the Australian Greens in subsequent days and weeks.

I point out that I have a note from Hetty Johnston, the founder and Executive Director of Bravehearts. She said that she believes it is incumbent upon every member of parliament to support this motion, leaving aside the matters around the shredding of the documents, rightly or wrongly; that the matter raises serious issues around the rape and abuse of girls and boys at the John Oxley detention centre; that the same issues that legitimately prompted the original estab­lishment of the Heiner inquiry remain unresol­ved; and that every member of parliament, especially those who espouse a particular interest in the issue of child protection, owes answers to the children who were so dreadfully treated.

Senator Fielding is patron of White Balloon Day, which is run by Bravehearts. I note Senator Fielding's previous advocacy on this and other issues. I hope this motion is passed at this stage. There are important and unresolved issues of law reform in relation to the protection of documents, cabinet-in-confidence, the protection of whistleblowers and related matters. The victim at the centre of this horrific matter still has not had her say. There have been recent developments in relation to this which I believe ought to be the subject of an appropriate Senate inquiry.

I move:

That the following matters be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 23 November 2011:

  (a)    the expected role of Government in preventing the destruction and concealment of documents which should be retained in the public interest, including documents in relation to potential legal proceedings;

  (b)   the circumstances under which documents should be categorised as Cabinet-in-confidence;

  (c)   the need for a national requirement for documents relating to child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, to be held for a minimum of 30 years;

  (d)   the appropriateness of victims of child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, being required to sign confidentiality agreements as part of any compensation arrangements;

  (e)   the role state and federal archivists can play in setting standards for the preservation of documents relating to the above matters;

  (f)   in relation to events relating to allegations of abuse in the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in Queensland from 1988:

     (i)   the shredding of documents by the then-Queensland Government in 1990 relating to the alleged rape of a resident at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in 1988, and other abuses and the implications these actions had on the ability of victims and others to pursue their legal rights with reference to section 129 of the Queensland Criminal Code, and the need for a national approach to the protection of such documents,

     (ii)   previous Queensland Government initiated inquiries and Federal Parliamentary inquiries into the matters referred to at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre,

     (iii)   whether evidence provided to previous Senate committee inquiries about the shredding of the documents referred to was misleading, or whether evidence was withheld from previous Senate committee inquiries, and whether there is any new evidence relating to these matters, and

     (iv)   the prevalence of abuse, and how reports of abuse were managed by management at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre, and whether there should be national standards generally in relation to the reporting and management of such matters; and

  (g)   any other related matter.


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