LINDA BURNEY MP
SHADOW MINSTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES
MARK DREYFUS MP
SHARON CLAYDON MP
DEPUTY CHAIR OF JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NATIONAL REDRESS SCHEME
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 23 JUNE 2021
SUBJECT: The Government’s lacklustre response to the National Redress Scheme review.
LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Good morning, everyone. What's required right now is what Julia Gillard displayed all those years ago back in 2021 - political leadership. At midnight. At midnight, the government rushed out this report without talking to survivors; without any consultation at all, with those that the report is about. At midnight, they rushed this out - it is tinkering at the edges, at best. There is no change to the fundamental issues that survivors have been calling for, for many years, no change to the matrix. The government has noted the recommendations about change to the matrix; there is no change to the cap, which is something that Labor has been calling on for a very long time. The Royal Commission recommended that the cap be $200,000, it has stubbornly remained on $150. With the Commonwealth using an excuse is this is what the states have signed up to. Well the Commonwealth has to show leadership and show leadership right now. It is silent on funder of last resort or confused about funder of last resort. And of course the other thing is it there is no change to the complex, difficult retraumatising application process. There is many, many survivors - there are many survivors that believe that the process is so retraumatising that they do not participate. So there are a number of other issues, but they are the main issues that Labor wants to highlight today. We welcome the in principle agreement about an early release scheme. That is something that we'd be advocating for many, many, many months. An early release scheme so the people who are old, who are sick, and who are dying, get some compensation before their death. We know that many people have already died waiting for compensation for the dreadful experiences that they had as a child. The other thing, of course, is that the government has ignored the recommendation about a minimum payment. This is really important. We have heard stories, where survivors that have gone through the dreadful process of the application tried to fit into the matrix that is incredibly flawed, have received payments that are very, very small, we thought that the government would accept that there should be a minimum payment of $10,000. And that is also something that the government will not come at. So too little too late, and lack of political leadership. And the insult to survivors of putting out this report at midnight to the media, before talking to survivors is an insult.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'd just say that - this government says that it is listening to survivors, but it is clearly not doing that. A government that was listening to survivors would be implementing the recommendations of this review. It's been the same stories since the very first report on Redress by the Royal Commission - the Royal Commission way back in 2015 brought down an interim report so that this government could act on the recommendations and set up a Redress Scheme before the Royal Commission got to deliver its final report so that the Royal Commission could comment on the Redress Scheme that had been set up. And instead what is this government do? Not even respond. It's consistent with everything we've seen over the eight long years of this government. They didn't get on with the job. When they did they didn't realise the vision of the Royal Commission as to what a Redress Scheme should look like. And they are still ignoring now with this review report that they've released as my colleague Linda Burney has just said at midnight last night. They've ignored very many of the recommendations. If this government was listening to these survivors, it would not be ignoring so many of those recommendations, it would be working to restore the vision of the Royal commissioners and have a properly set up Redress Scheme.
SHARON CLAYDON, DEPUTY CHAIR OF JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NATIONAL REDRESS SCHEME: Good morning. This is the third report the government has received in three years now outlining the problems of the National Redress Scheme. Survivors will be extremely disappointed to have not been brought into the government's confidence before releasing this report last night. They have shared both with the joint select committee that I deputy chair and the inquiry led by Robyn Kruk, the most personal and intimate of stories, the trauma that they have relived in order to ensure that government understands, just really should never be underestimated. And so the idea of releasing this report without taking them into your confidence last night is really quite unforgiveable. But of course, this is a National Redress Scheme. And it requires national leadership. For three years now, the government has received, I have worked very closely with government members on a joint select committee to ensure there are good bipartisan reports and recommendations in front. You know, the Robyn Kruk report is a reiteration of all of the issues we have known and put before the government for the last two years, she has strengthened - given strength I think to many of those recommendations. But it should have been of no shock to the government, any of those recommendations. So the idea that they are still just noting, or agreeing in principle is astonishing. Every time this government has chosen to move away from the Royal Commissions' recommendations, it has been to the detriment of survivors every time and they have had that message, loud and clear, there are deep structural issues that need to be addressed. So this is not just tinkering around the edges, we know that the experience for survivors in the National - applying into the National Redress Scheme has been has been traumatic. This is not a scheme that has set up as it should to be survivor focus, full of trauma informed practice, and be timely. I mean, those are messages that have been loud and clear for many years. But if this government is thinks it's just going to kick the can down the road again, say it's gotta take up matters with states and territories - there's no dispute that states and territories be involved in this, but they require - this is a government that can set the standard. And there is no escaping the fact that they have actually failed to do so to date.
JOURNALIST: Ms Burney, what is your message to survivors, and what do you think should be done as a matter of urgency from the government?
BURNEY: The government as a matter of urgency, needs to talk to survivors. And be very clear with them, how they're going to respond to the Kruk review. My message to survivors is we absolutely hear you and we will fight every day to make sure that the issues that are important to you, as a survivor, are how Labor and is how Labor will be informed to the way in which we will deal with this scheme. This is a great Labor legacy. Julia Gilad was incredibly brave in bringing this scheme forward. It was about healing. And what we see absolutely is a government that is tinkering around the edges, there is no structural change to the Redress Scheme and that is unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned that there are people who have died waiting for the Redress report to come about. Do you know how many exactly?
BURNEY: I can't answer the question to how many Survivor groups will be able to do that. What I can say is, we are aware that people who have waited for so long, who have been sick, who are aged, and they are dying without redress and that is reprehensible.
JOURNALIST: The Kruk review found that the window of opportunity for putting through reforms and trying to improve this system is very narrow. The government has said that on the recommendations it's accepted it wants to bring legislation to Parliament after the winter break. Of the things that the government has said that they will do you broadly supportive of that? And would you back that legislation in Parliament?
BURNEY: What we do welcome is the early release scheme. It is something that Labor has been arguing for for a very long time. In fact, we've highlighted the scheme that’s in place in Scotland around the same issues, so we welcome that.
But we do not see that any of the root changes that the government in principle has agreed to will bring about the structural reform that survivors have been calling for, for a long, long time.Things like the application process. The recommendation of the Kruk review was a single application process that has only been noted - and surely the process survivors have to go through and the re-traumatising of survivors is fundamental. The second thing that Labor is incredibly disappointed about, as survivors will be, is that there will be no change to a matrix that is obviously flawed and survivors have been calling on changes to that Matrix for a very long time.
JOURNALIST: Something that's been highlighted over the last few years are glaring inconsistencies with how some cases are decided upon that survivors when they are offered X number of dollars in redress, don't get proper reasons as to why they’ve been assessed for that amount of money, and this is something that the review has highlighted again wanting to strengthen, the independent decision-making process - is that a welcome development?
BURNEY: Of course, that is a welcomed development, but what Labor has been arguing for, for a very long time, is that survivors need Advocates to help them through a very complex process. Now, remember that many of these people are very elderly. What is really disappointing, and we've been arguing that the scheme should apply to more people which the government has rejected, is that because you are in prison should not be a reason for not being able to get compensation. There are there are many issues around people on various Visa categories, for example. The point that I'm making is that the expansion of those eligible for the scheme has not been taken.
JOURNALIST: You've been critical of the fact that the government hasn't opted to lift the cap on payments to $200,000. That's something that the recommendations of the review also didn't arrive at that position. Why do you think Robyn Kruk is wrong in that regard?
BURNEY: The Royal commission itself, recommended that the cap be at $200,000. The Shadow Attorney General could tell you that many people have decided to go the Civil route. Part of the important changes that should have happened, and they're not all that expensive, we've actually worked out what they would cost, is that there should be a renegotiation with the states so that the cap does match what the Royal Commission actually said. The government will use the excuse ‘well this is what the states agreed to $150,000 and not $200,000’. Quite frankly the federal government needs to recognise, they have a responsibility and part of that is implementing what Mr. Dreyfus has spoken about, the amounts that were outlined in the Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: Mr Dreyfus, I might get you to actually add to that point, because the review did find that if that cap was increased now, it would mean that you have to go back to all of the claims that have been settled so far and reassess them and see whether or not they should be given more money as a result. Would that in and of itself be further re-traumatizing survivors?
DREYFUS: I don't see why that should be so. This was an extremely carefully worked out cap, and I'd ask anyone who's in doubt about that to read the very detailed part of the Royal Commission’s report. I’ll say again, they brought out an early report before the conclusion of the Royal Commission so that this scheme could be set up and the $200,000 was very, very carefully assessed.
JOURNALIST: Mr Dreyfus, do you think that it is a failure of the Redress Scheme that people do feel they need to go through the civil court system, given that that is not going to be an option for so many of these survivors?
DREYFUS: It was always intended that people would have that option. It was never intended to rule out the possibility of going to court. But the Royal Commission recognised very, very directly just how difficult civil litigation, big civil litigation against large institutions can be. And that's why the Redress Scheme was created. It's a matter of some concern to me that we are seeing so many people now give up on this Redress Scheme because far from it being the adequate, or nearly adequate system that the Royal Commission recommended, it's deficient in a whole lot of respects and the Government's response does not fix those deficiencies.
CLAYDON: The very low participation rate in the national Redress Scheme speaks volumes to the challenges and the inadequacies from a survivor point of view. Less than 6000 payments have been made in three years. The Royal Commission anticipated that there would be 60,000 applicants. There's been barely 10,000 applicants . There are many reasons that we could point to for those low participation rates. The lack of real engagements with First Nations communities and people are showing up as an astonishingly huge gap in the national Redress Scheme. There's a lot of work to do in this scheme to even reach the people it was intended to reach. Mr. Dreyfus is absolutely right, the $200,000 figure was a very carefully thought out one. I'm the Member for Newcastle. We've had entire volumes of the Royal Commission dedicated to the abuse that took place in my hometown and I know from the survivors I work with every day that that figure has been regarded as inadequate and suspicious from day one. Once the Government decided to reduce that to $150,000 that put a big cloud over the Redress Scheme. And many of those people have extremely strong cases that they will pursue through civil action, undoubtedly. But the point of the Redress Scheme was that you didn't have to go down that path. The National Redress Scheme is clearly failing people it was intended to provide redress for.
JOURNALIST: Ms Burney you mentioned earlier the issue of the funder of last resort, and you said that the Government had been quite silent or even confused on that matter. Can you explain what you what you mean by that and what you believe the Government should be doing in that area?
BURNEY: I believe that the Federal Government should act as the funder of last resort. There would be very few situations where the Federal Government needs to step in, but where an institution is not viable, or an institution doesn't exist anymore, for example, yet abuse took place in those organisations many, many years ago, that should not mean that people or, as children that went to those institutions, are not eligible. And that is why a funder of last resort is so important, and the Federal Government should step into the breach and become the funder of last resort.
JOURNALIST: Just one more for you Ms Burney, with the Redress Scheme do you think there should be any kind of specific measures for Indigenous people who have suffered these kinds of abuses or are there specific measures for Indigenous people? Do you think that there should be one specific measure?
BURNEY: I'm not aware of any specific measures. Robyn Kruk does make mention of making sure that there is cultural sensitivity and appropriateness around First Nations people. But the issue with First Nations people is that, as Sharon has indicated, there is an enormous gap, in the sense of so few First Nations people being part of the scheme. Now that, to me, is a very real question that the Government should be pursuing. Why is there so few First Nations applications and what can be done to bring about some equity for them?