Senate debates

Monday, 18 March 2024


National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2023; Second Reading

7:11 pm

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the opposition, I rise to make a short contribution this evening on the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2023. Whilst the coalition will ultimately support this bill, we will be moving an amendment in the committee stage of consideration of the bill to omit part 2 of schedule 1 from this bill. Part 2 of schedule 1 makes changes to the special assessment process to specific classes of serious offences and removes the existing restrictions that apply to those people on applying under the Redress Scheme from jail.

The National Redress Scheme, established under the former coalition government, continues to provide support to those who have suffered from institutionalised child sexual abuse. The scheme recognises the suffering survivors have experienced and accepts that these events occurred and that institutions must take responsibility for this abuse. The scheme is the most significant step in going part of the way to addressing the wrongs of the past and providing a just response to survivors. We also recognise that it's an important step and has been an important step for many towards healing. The scheme also ensures governments and institutions take steps to safeguard against these crimes ever being repeated in the future. It is intended to provide a survivor with the means to access a sense of justice through financial redress and other restorative supports. It is intended to be faster, simpler and less distressing for survivors and to provide governments and institutions with the means to deliver swift justice to those survivors.

When the scheme was established under the former coalition government, there were some limitations for people who had committed the most serious of crimes. For example, if a person is convicted of an offence which receives a custodial sentence of five years or more in jail, the operator, as defined under the act, may determine that the person is entitled to redress if providing redress to the person would not bring the scheme into disrepute or adversely affect public confidence in the scheme. When making this determination at present, the operator takes into account any relevant information, such as advice given by the relevant attorney-general and the nature of the offence for which that person has received the custodial sentence of five years or more. The coalition does not see any need to change this current arrangement. Changes to review processes to allow new information to be provided as part of a request for review of a determination and consideration by independent decision-makers should be as part of the review process.

The bill that we're debating this evening changes eligibility for prisoners by removing the restriction on people making an application for redress from jail. The bill seeks to reduce unnecessary delays in the progression of applications by making changes to the process for people with serious convictions applying for redress, thus reducing the number of people required to go through the special assessment process. The changes aim to reduce the incidence of applications that undergo special assessment, focusing only on those sentenced to five years or more in jail for offences such as unlawful killing, sexual offences or terrorism, or in cases where there is a risk to the scheme's integrity. The bill makes changes to the scheme's protected information framework by introducing additional authorisations for disclosure of protected information. The bill allows finalised applications for redress to be reassessed when an institution identified in the application has subsequently joined the scheme or been listed under funder of last resort arrangements. Finally, the bill implements technical amendments to align funder of last resort rounding provisions to other areas of the redress act, addressing drafting inconsistencies within the funder of last resort provisions and to promote consistency in drafting.

The National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2023 shows this government's tendency to be lenient on crime by benefiting, or proposing to benefit, individuals with serious criminal convictions by, essentially, offering a fast-tracked redress process. Under this bill those who receive a jail sentence of five years or more would be eligible to apply for redress without having to go through the existing special assessment process. Under this bill, only those sentenced to five years or more for offences such as unlawful killing, sexual offences or terrorism, or cases where it's deemed that the scheme's integrity would be questioned—and we do not for a moment doubt that—would have to go through the special assessment process. But, outside of those crimes, any other individuals receiving a jail sentence of five years or more would be eligible to apply for redress without having to go through the existing special assessment arrangement.

We have a proposal now from the government to change this assessment process for people who have been jailed for more than five years outside of those crimes that I mentioned. Let's be frank: in this country, to be jailed for more than five years means that, by definition, we are talking about some very serious crimes. But, in effect, we are concerned that the government is accepting that, for a certain class of crimes, we shouldn't be changing that process—that certain class of crimes here being unlawful killings, sexual offences and terrorism. We understand the need to do that but, again, the concern is whether or not this has been consistently applied across the board. On the one hand the government is accepting that it is important for the special assessment process to be maintained for the integrity of the scheme and for common decency, but for other classes of crimes we're happy to let open the doors for everybody else.

So, as I foreshadowed in making my contribution this evening on behalf of the shadow minister and on behalf of the opposition, the coalition will ultimately be supporting this bill in its passage through the Senate, but we will move amendments in the committee of the whole stage to deal with some of the issues that I have outlined this evening, particularly an amendment to omit part 2 of schedule 1 from the bill.

7:18 pm

Photo of David ShoebridgeDavid Shoebridge (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Greens will support the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2023, but I indicate that we will be seeking to move a series of amendments to the bill and that we will oppose the amendment that's proposed by the opposition.

The National Redress Scheme was established almost six years ago, in 2018. It came about following one of the most extraordinary cases of public information sharing, public education and trauma informed historical review. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by Commissioner McClellan, is a case study in how we can do things right. After decades and decades and decades of not listening to survivors of abuse and after decades and decades of prioritising the institutions over the survivors and the individuals who were abused and broken by those institutions, the royal commission showed how as a nation we could show empathy, compassion and understanding, and how finally we could put the interests of those individuals ahead of the interests of the powerful institutions that all too often abuse them—powerful institutions like the Catholic Church, the Scouts, the Anglican Church and institutions run at the state and territory level. I thought we had finally changed politics so that even the worst tendencies of this place, the worst tendencies of partisan politics, would be put to one side and that, finally, we would listen to the stories of survivors, listen to the truth of the survivors and respect them.

We got the 2018 National Redress Scheme and there were always concerns about it. It remains a very secretive scheme. Many survivors say they don't know why they received often very modest compensation payments out of it. The reasons are not articulated for them. The process can be incredibly long. Indeed, some institutions are still resisting signing on and being part of the scheme, despite us knowing that they were responsible for the abuse of significant numbers of children. But with all those faults, I thought our politics had improved. And part of that has been the ongoing review of the Redress Scheme.

I acknowledge the work of all members on the Joint Standing Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme and the work of the chair. Indeed, from my observation of the members of that committee, no matter their political party, they have been survivor focused, and they have been seeking to shine some transparency on the Redress Scheme. But there have been these ongoing concerns with how it operates, and one of those concerns is the fact that the bill effectively excludes any person who is in jail or any person who has been the subject of a serious criminal conviction from access to the scheme, unless exceptional circumstances are identified. A serious criminal conviction is serving a sentence of five years or more.

Let's remember who this scheme is meant to serve—individuals who were taken from their families when they were infants at a very young age. Many of them have suffered some of the most horrific abuse you could imagine at the hands of an institution or institutions such that it is hard to comprehend how somebody gets their life back together again after that. Tragically, many didn't. For many survivors, their lives spiralled out of control after the appalling abuse that they suffered. Some went down the path of addiction, while many fell into the juvenile justice system and graduated into the adult criminal justice system. Through no fault of their own but through the damage that was caused to them by the abusing institution, their lives have been off-track for decades. Many have served repeated stints in jail. Of course, not all sufferers of abuse had that pathway. Some of them managed to keep their lives on track. Some of them managed, through a strength that I can't comprehend, to succeed in work, education, in holding their families together, and we should celebrate those extraordinary achievements of the survivors who could do that. But let's also acknowledge the pathway that many others travelled down. It is a dark and hard pathway. At its start and at its cause is the abuse that happened to them.

There has now been a review of the redress act. That review finally acknowledges that the reason why many of the survivors and victims have been excluded is because of this provision that says that 'if you have been convicted and sentenced to five or more years in jail, you are excluded'. The review said that provision is cutting out many survivors who absolutely need the support, who absolutely deserve the support and whose incarceration has, at its core, the abuse they suffered. It is effectively punishing them twice, and the review made this clear. Indeed, the review report noted that those restrictions constitute a significant bar, discouraging applicants and deterring other potentially eligible applicants from applying. It recommended, effectively, removing this exemption except in cases of unlawful killing, a sexual offence, a terrorism offence or related offences, leaving the exceptional circumstances assessment for that core of the most extreme offences.

As I said, I thought we had moved on as a nation. I thought we had understood the pathway that survivors had come through. And yet, to its eternal shame, the coalition is now seeking to move an amendment to this bill to retain that double punishment of survivors, reaching into their playbook of attacking the government or any other political party that shows even a shred of compassion to somebody who suffered institutional abuse and then incarceration. They are now seeking to weaponise this legislation against survivors of abuse, and they absolutely know the pathway of many of these survivors of abuse that happened. They know about the abuse that those people suffered at an institutional level. They know how that impacted those people and often drove them down that pathway to juvenile detention and then into adult prison. In fact, that pathway through prison is part of the pain and the suffering they had from their childhood abuse at the hands of an institution that should have kept them safe.

The coalition now come into this chamber and want to protect the institutions from those claims again. The coalition come into this chamber and want to again punish those survivors and, in the lowest politics you can imagine, beat up on the government about this because the government is showing a shred of compassion. It's the vilest politics you can imagine coming from the coalition here. We should be contemptuous of their position. How could they not have listened to the royal commission? How could the coalition be seeking to weaponise the abuse suffered by survivors of these institutions, seeking to drag it into their ugly gutter politics and weaponise it against the government? How low can the coalition go? The answer is that we're getting a sense tonight with them weaponising this against survivors of institutional abuse and trying to harm the government that is showing a shred of compassion here.

I thought this country had grown a little with the royal commission, but the coalition haven't .The coalition remain in that vile position of supporting the institutions—because that's what they're doing here. They're supporting the institutions and saying the institutions that abuse these children shouldn't have to pay, because the children went through a pathway of going into the criminal justice system. The coalition here are trying to ensure that the Catholic Church keeps the money—the modest amount of redress that they'd have to pay to children that they abused or let be abused in their care. They're saying that state and territory governments can keep the money and don't have to pay survivors modest compensation. They want to protect state and territory government institutions and literally take the money away from survivors of institutional abuse. They want to protect the Scouts, the Girl Guides and the Anglican church. They're again putting all those institutions ahead of survivors of abuse. It is contemptible politics. It should be beyond the shame of any politician, let alone a political party that pretends that it could form government at some point.

I call upon the coalition to withdraw their amendment, to actually have a small shred of public shame in what they do and not weaponise this bill against a government that's actually trying, after six years in this space, to do something decent for survivors of institutional abuse.

There are two amendments to this bill that the Greens will be pressing for. The first is to ensure that a class of women who were abused as children can get fair access to compensation under the redress scheme. We heard this evidence in the redress committee. I want to thank CLAN for their advocacy in this space and Leonie Sheedy for her advocacy for these women who, when they were taken, often as state wards, were often repeatedly abused by the medical profession for so-called virginity testing. Virginity testing has now been criminalised in other countries such as the United Kingdom because it's seen to be inherently abusive of women.

I'll read briefly from one of the submissions we got from a state ward about this issue. She said: 'I was made a state ward in October 1966. I'd been charged with truancy. I don't deny missing a lot of school due to my childhood circumstances, but effectively I was institutionalised for being poor. I was a frightened little girl removed from my family. It was traumatising being sent to a government home. I was extremely afraid being transported to a city I'd never been to before. Still, to this day, I have trouble sleeping, with recurring nightmares, and feel the trauma of that time. Shortly after arriving at this government girls' home, I was sent to a room upstairs where two strangers—a man and woman—were waiting. The man asked me a lot of questions. The lady didn't speak. I was just a little girl with no idea what was happening. I was very scared and confused.'

I won't read on about what happened to her after that in the virginity testing. This appalling medical abuse, this trauma and violence against this young girl that happened repeatedly. But then she says this: 'I was encouraged to apply for redress when I contacted CLAN in 2021, and I lodged my application in May 2022. All members of CLAN, particularly Leonie Sheedy, have been extremely supportive, with their help and understanding of the trauma I suffered as a little girl.

'My application has been refused on the grounds my state sanctioned rape has been considered a medical examination. I feel totally devastated and discriminated against. Other women in the same situation as I was placed have been granted redress. It's very distressing for me. I feel ripped apart in the same way I felt when I was a little girl taken from my mother a few short years after my father committed suicide in March 1959. The Labor government has always respected rights and equality for all Australians, without discrimination. I can't help but feel re-traumatised and assaulted a second time.'

That's the now-older woman's story about the abuse she suffered. We have an amendment that will make it clear that no future redress application which relates to the abuse that happened in virginity testing can be refused because it says, 'to avoid doubt, sexual abuse includes the examination of female genitalia, with or without consent, for the purpose or purported purpose of determining virginity'. We'd ask all parties in the chamber to support that, to listen to the voices—and that's not an isolated case—of these woman who are now in their 60s and 70s who have finally come forward and sought redress. Many of them have been refused for this reason. It shouldn't happen again.

I'll speak to another amendment we have in the course of the committee debate, but, again, I'd urge all parties to remember the royal commission. (Time expired)

7:33 pm

Photo of Kerrynne LiddleKerrynne Liddle (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Child Protection and the Prevention of Family Violence) Share this | | Hansard source

That's an interesting interpretation by Senator Shoebridge of the amendment the coalition is proposing. I'll correct the record.

The National Redress Scheme was started under the coalition government in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The redress scheme recognises the trauma and injustices survivors have experienced as children in Australian institutions. It is a significant step in addressing wrongs of the past. The most recent available data tells us that at June 2023 more than 1,500 institutions were found to be responsible for abuse, nearly 11,000 people had applied to the scheme for redress and over 3,500 applicants were found to be eligible. Payments to approved applicants ranged from $10,000 to $150,000.

This bill amends the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018—the Redress Act. It amends existing provisions and introduces new provisions. While the coalition will ultimately support this bill, we do seek amendments. The Redress Act was brought in under a coalition government and it exists to support adults who, as children, were abused in institutional care.

A participant in the scheme, locked up for stealing an $8-dollar pair of jeans, said acknowledgment that he was sexually abused by the very people who were supposed to protect him was important to him. As a victim-survivor, he encouraged people to come forward. In his words:

What I'd say to people who feel ashamed and scared, come forward and talk.

Talk to someone and go through the Scheme.

Get actual recognition about what happened to you.

Nothing to be ashamed about, just come forward, and talk.

Another survivor, who spent four years in Westbrook children's home in Toowoomba and was regularly flogged and sexually abused by staff, wanted 'recognition and justice for the suffering endured at the hands of the state', and believed redress could do this.

This scheme is about practical, meaningful, commonsense support provided by way of monetary compensation, counselling and psychological care. It also has the option of a direct personal response from responsible institutions that validate the individuals' experience. It also requires the organisations who ran the institutions to take responsibility for previous wrongdoings and contribute to the scheme in the way the survivors deem valuable to them. That is the appropriate response.

I would also like to acknowledge the Redress Support Services and the work that they do in supporting applicants to access the scheme, especially those in my home state of South Australia. In South Australia, these organisations and their committed workers include Nunkuwarrin Yunti, the Victim Support Service, the South Australian Council on Intellectual Disability and Relationships Australia South Australia. These services are free, independent and offer someone to talk to, someone to help fill out forms and someone to speak to the National Redress Scheme on behalf of applicants. Specialist support services are available for people living with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, carers and former child migrants.

When the redress scheme was first set up by the coalition government in 2018, it was with the intention that the scheme evolve. So it was, in June 2020, the then Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Anne Ruston, my state colleague, announced an independent review. The review's task was to identify the gaps and areas where the scheme could be made stronger and ensure fairness for survivors. It contained 38 recommendations to improve survivor participation and to enhance the operation of the scheme.

Twenty-five of the recommendations were immediately prioritised in the former coalition government's response in late 2021. In the 2021-22 budget, more than $80 million over four years was allocated to progress action on these recommendations. The coalition made efforts to balance the review recommendations with potential impacts on institutions participating in the scheme. An independent review is the way to approach any change to such an important scheme. Where is that process that informs the changes before us today?

As a Liberal senator for South Australia, I am particularly proud that it was the former South Australian Liberal government, led by former premier Steven Marshall, who signed up my state to the National Redress Scheme. Some truth-telling: I note that the previous South Australia Labor government refused to sign up to the National Redress Scheme—a shameful act of partisan politics.

This Labor government claim the moral high ground on so many social and community issues, but they have no conviction. They overpromise and underdeliver. This bill demonstrates Labor's leniency on crime, giving those with serious criminal convictions access to the fast-track redress process. The scheme's changes mean those who have committed the following serious crimes can apply through the fast-track process rather than through the special assessment process. I'll read them out. This means: extortion; distributing, accessing and possessing child abuse material; kidnapping; robbery; armed robbery; burglary and aggravated burglary; home invasion and aggravated home invasion; carjacking and aggravated carjacking; and arson—very serious crimes with real people who are victims-survivors. With this bill and its changes to the special assessment process, the Labor government is inadvertently choosing to narrow their definition of what constitutes a serious crime to those who have committed terrorism, unlawful killing and sexual offences. There is no legitimacy in this leniency—none.

It also allows those in jail to apply. At this time, that requires permission from the relevant Commonwealth minister. While the coalition will ultimately support this bill, we will seek an amendment to propose changes to the special assessment process that proposes removal of restrictions that apply for people applying in jail. The scheme in its current form sets out that, if a person is convicted of an offence and receives the custodial sentence of five years or more in jail, the operator as defined under the act may determine that the person is entitled to redress. The operator is able to consider the application, providing that redress to the person would not bring the scheme into disrepute or adversely affect public confidence in the scheme.

The coalition remains of the view that there is no need to change the current arrangement of a special assessment process. It strikes the right balance. They can still claim. It does not prevent them from getting paid, as the Australian Greens have said; it is about not changing what is currently done. The Albanese government needs to be upfront with Australians and explain the process it used to inform these changes. Who was consulted? Why is this change necessary? And what are the potential unintended consequences? One of the commonsense measures in this legislation that comes directly from the second-year review introduces a new reassessment process to address potential disadvantages faced by survivors when an institution joins the scheme after their application progresses. When in government, the coalition government committed to considering the recommendation in consultation with state and territory governments, survivors, institutions and other stakeholders.

Another commonsense measure in this legislation aims to address drafting inconsistency with the original funder of last resort provisions and the Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment (Funders of Last Resort and Other Measures) Act 2021, which extended funder of last resort arrangements in the redress act. What this means is that these changes will ensure that a person's redress payment and an institution's redress liability are appropriately calculated where the same institution is responsible under more than one funder of last resort category. This legislation also provides that, if the amount worked out is not a whole number of cents, the number should be rounded up to the next whole number of cents. This would be in line with other rounding provisions in the act and within the rules.

Another commonsense measure aims to allow applicants to submit further information when requesting a review of a decision. The current redress act does not allow for this. The two-year review under the coalition government found that this position limits procedural fairness and, along with the risk of a redress offer being reduced, deters survivors from requesting a review. This offers a 'no worse' provision. They won't be any worse off. That makes sense. It is addressing a procedural fairness. Yes, under the act as it is now, those who are convicted of a serious crime who are also victims are entitled to access the scheme. But, rightly, there are additional barriers and safeguards in place to ensure its integrity through the special assessment process.

How is it responsible, how is it sensible, and how is it in keeping with the intent of the scheme, which is in recognising the hurt, pain and trauma of the same type of abuse? It isn't. It does not make sense. We do not know if this is an oversight in the drafting of this bill or an error on behalf of the minister. But it should be fixed. I call on the government to support the opposition's proposed amendment to the bill, which will result in keeping the special assessment process as it currently is.

7:44 pm

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2023. This bill amends the process of the scheme, which was first established in 2018 following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abus and is currently scheduled to be in place for 10 years. The amendments contained in this bill implement certain recommendations from the final report of the second-year review of the National Redress Scheme.

This scheme provides three elements of redress for eligible applicants. They are payment of $150,000, access to counselling and psychological services, and the option to receive a direct, personal response from a responsible institution. This scheme is so important. As we know, far too many people experience trauma at the hands of state institutions. This scheme is, frankly, the least the government can do to try to address the hurt and the long-lasting effects of child sexual abuse. However, we know that this scheme is too hard to access. There are so many hoops that participants have to jump through, and many organisations that were responsible for this abuse have not signed up to the scheme, meaning justice is, in fact, out of reach for far too many victims.

I know personally how hard this scheme is, as I have loved ones who have had to go through this process and, in fact, are still going through this process. The trauma of having to relive and explain what you were subjected to cannot be overstated. It is important to acknowledge that many of the people who are victim-survivors and are trying to access this scheme were also part of the stolen generations of this country. We need to acknowledge the complex trauma that these people carry with them and the impacts of intergenerational trauma. Despite what some people in this place might think and, in fact, what they do say, intergenerational trauma is real, and the impacts of colonisation continue to be felt in First Nations communities across Australia. The issues in this scheme only exacerbate the inherent distrust that many First Nations people feel towards government institutions.

Further, there are many different redress schemes. This one and various stolen generation redress schemes are in every jurisdiction but Western Australia, my home state, and Queensland. There is overlap in a number of administrative processes that people must follow, meaning it sometimes takes years to get a result. In WA and Queensland, for members of the stolen generation, this scheme may be all they have access to for some type of justice. I have been told directly by survivors of the stolen generation that the Western Australian government is waiting for them to die. It is waiting for them to die out. The fewer survivors that are left there, the less money the government will have to pay. This is unacceptable. It is an absolute disgrace. The WA and Queensland governments need to get their act together and implement a redress scheme for survivors of the stolen generation, and we need a national scheme for those who were taken across state lines or who, for whatever reason, were not able to participate in those schemes that were run in the past.

Once again I stand in this place and say that this is the absolute, bare minimum. It is the least that this government could do. No amount of money will ever account for the loss of family, the loss of connection, the loss of culture and the loss of community. Entire families were wiped out by this policy. Languages and sacred knowledge have been lost. In some places we can never get that back. That is why we fight so hard to protect what we have left. If governments really want to make up for what they did during those times, they will stop continuing to lock our kids up, they will stop destroying our sacred sites, they will invest in our First Nations communities, and they will let First Nations people be at the core of those solutions for the problems that governments have created as legacy pieces for us. So, yes, we need this Redress Scheme for victims-survivors of institutionalised child sexual abuse, and this is an important step, but we also could be doing a whole lot more.

7:50 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

The National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2023 will benefit survivors and contribute to improving the National Redress Scheme for institutional child sexual abuse for the remaining five years of its life. Consistent with the government's policy of ongoing improvement of the scheme, it will enhance the accessibility of survivors to redress. It will give effect to the government's final response to the legislative second-year review of the scheme. The formal response was provided by the government in May 2023. The final response is provided for in this bill. In summary, the review made 38 recommendations identifying a number of administrative, policy and operational matters that need improvement to ensure that the scheme meets its statutory obligations, facilitates greater accessibility, supports its survivors and provides a more trauma informed experience that is responsive to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

The second-year review of the scheme commenced on 1 July 2020 and was conducted between then and March 2021. The final report was provided to the Minister for Families and Social Services at the end of March 2021. The former government implemented five recommendations in the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Act 2021. These included recommendation 3.6, developing a simplified application and removing the requirement for a statutory declaration; recommendation 4.2, providing an advanced payment of $10,000 to eligible applicants born before 1944 or 1964 for those applicants identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or those with a terminal illness; recommendation 4.4, payment by instalments; recommendation 4.5, calculation of the indexation of prior payments at the date an application is submitted; and recommendation 5.2, updating funder of last resort provisions, where an institution is defunct and no parent institution can be found or where an institution named in an application is assessed as not having the financial means to join but is willing to do so.

The measures in the bill build on both legislative and non-legislative steps taken to date in response to the review, but they effect the response to the remaining recommendations arising from the review that require further development and consultation to implement. The government is committed to the continual improvement of the scheme to achieve this objective. The bill will make the following amendments to the act. It will allow redress applicants to provide additional information with their request for review of a decision and implement a limited no-worse-off provision, limited with regard to the guiding principles of the scheme, where the information provided is not false or misleading.

It will improve the process for applicants with serious criminal convictions so that the special assessment process is required only for a person convicted of unlawful killing, terrorism or sexual offences and exceptional circumstances where appropriate. It will allow incarcerated survivors to apply for redress, expand the protected information provisions to enable additional circumstances where protected information may be disclosed, implement technical amendments to the funder-of-last-resort provisions to correct technical drafting errors and establish a process to give applicants the option of having their application reassessed if it was finalised with one or more relevant institutions not participating and where that institution subsequently joins the scheme or government agrees to act as funder of last resort.

The amendments to the protected information provisions of the redress act are in response to recommendation 3.6 of the second-year review, the interest of transparency for survivors and in response to direct requests from institutions. These are all contained in part 3 of the bill and insert new sections 95B and 96A and make consequential amendments.

The bill, as I've said, builds on action already undertaken in response to the review and seeks to make further legislative changes. Currently, all applicants who are jailed must demonstrate exceptional circumstances in order to apply, as I've already indicated, and exceptional circumstances usually include that they will still be in jail at the scheme's sunset. The restriction on applying from jail disproportionately impacts First Nations applicants in Western Australia and the Northern Territory and will provide immediate access to those survivors.

The changes this bill has brought to parliament are measured and in recognition of the lifelong impacts of child sexual abuse. They maintain public confidence and integrity in the legislation, which has been operating for over five years now. The second-year review, as I've touched upon, recommended that the policy and guidelines regarding what is referred to as 'state sanctioned rape' or 'virginity testing' be reviewed to provide greater clarity to independent decision-makers when considering these applications. In response, the scheme sought the advice of medical ethicists and updated the guidance material to provide greater clarity for independent decision-makers.

I acknowledge the calls from advocates and survivors to instruct independent decision-makers about how to assess applicants that disclose this type of abuse or to include a definition to determine whether it is relevant abuse for the scheme. The amendment moved by Senator Shoebridge goes further than what was recommended and will not be accepted by the government. I note that this will require the full agreement of all states and territories and thorough consultation with participating institutions. To do so would undermine the independence of the scheme and the confidence in the scheme of states, territories and institutions.

I also acknowledge the significant hurt caused by institutions pursuing permanent stays prior to the High Court's decision in GLJ late last year. The government will not be supporting the amendment to open up deeds of release for an eligible group of survivors, as it will significantly shift the basis on which institutions join the scheme. The royal commission recommended that accepting a payment under the scheme would require an applicant to release the institution from any further liability. As the scheme operates on a responsible-entity-pays basis, the risk of institutions leaving the scheme is simply too great. Without their continued voluntary participation, the scheme cannot continue to operate and enable survivors to access redress.

As to the first amendment from Senator Shoebridge, accepting the recommendation would require the full agreement of states, territories and participating institutions. We are not going to delay the passage of this important bill.

Debate interrupted.