Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
At the request of Senator Steele-John, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Chair of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (the Royal Commission), the Honourable Ronald Sackville AO QC, wrote to the Prime Minister and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on 14 February, 2020 to request that changes be made to the Royal Commissions Act 1902 to ensure the confidentiality of submitters and those giving evidence could be protected beyond the life of the Royal Commission,
(ii) the Administrative Arrangement Orders were amended on 2 April 2020 transferring responsibility for the Act to the Attorney-General’s Portfolio,
(iii) this letter and the changes requested within it remain outstanding and unresolved,
(iv) many disabled people, families, carers, and support workers hold significant concerns about making submissions and providing evidence to the Royal Commission for instances of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of disabled people, particularly in contemporaneous and ongoing instances, due to the lack of protections afforded to them in the legislation,
(v) this issue is prohibiting people from telling their stories and preventing the Royal Commission from being able to access the breadth of stories it should be able to, and
(vi) without this change there are real and significant fears held by the community that the Royal Commission will miss the many stories and experiences that form the whole picture of what has happened to disabled people in this country, and to ensure that disabled people see justice and deep systemic changes needed to prevent instances of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation from happening in the future; and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) give an urgent update on the progress of this change and provide a timeline for when we will expect to see legislation introduced, and
(ii) commit to making the required legislative changes as soon as possible.
The government recognises the importance of witnesses' being able to give evidence safely and in confidence at royal commissions and of the need to balance this key concern with the principle of open proceedings. Receiving advice on these issues, the government is carefully considering options as to how we can best achieve that certainty. A decision by the government will be made shortly.
Question agreed to.