This speech was delivered on 29 May 2013 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full debate online here.
VICTIMS RIGHTS AND SUPPORT BILL 2013
The bill has been introduced to deal with the deficit in the Victims Compensation Scheme. There is no doubt that the scheme is in deficit after more than a decade of consistent underfunding, and needs additional funding. Some estimates say it is hundreds of millions of dollars in deficit but it is clearly running at $20 million or $30 million deficit each year. As I said before, one can judge a government by how it deals with the most vulnerable. In one bill this Government gave a $300-million tax concession to clubs for poker machines. It made a promise to ClubsNSW that every year $300 million in tax concessions will be given to clubs for poker machines. Just that one decision would not only fund the entire deficit in the Victims Compensation Scheme but could improve the entitlements and rights to the scheme.Government is about choices. This Government has made a choice—namely, to give tax concessions to the clubs for poker machines and utterly gut compensation payments to victims of crime. That sums up this Government’s decision-making in one go. The Government has slashed workers compensation rights and is in the process of slashing the rights of victims of motor vehicle accidents. Now the Government is attacking some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Why do we have victims compensation at all? Of the many submissions received by my office in relation to this bill one was a submission from the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, which provides free legal advice to homeless and disadvantaged young people aged 25 and under. That submission summed up why we have the scheme. In part, it said:
- Compensation payment for pain suffered is a symbolic recognition of a public wrong and an important part of addressing violent crime in our society. A reduction in payments for victims of violence has detrimental effects on a victim’s ability to reclaim their life, but also sends a clear message that this is not important to us as a society.
- The new scheme ignores and undervalues trauma suffered by victims of domestic violence and child sexual abuse. After working so hard to bring violence that happens in the home into the public sphere, the government now appears to be giving greater recognition to “public” acts of violence.
It is particularly troubling that this attack on the rights of victims of crime, which will have a grossly unfair impact particularly on victims of historic child sexual abuse and victims of domestic violence, comes at a time when many victims, particularly victims of historic child sexual abuse—which is one of the worst crimes, and I am by no means seeking to single out just one crime—thought that governments were finally listening to them. We currently have a Federal royal commission and a State commission of inquiry into child sexual abuse. Victims of crimes thought their voices were finally being heard. This bill, in the shadow of the Government’s budget, has destroyed the Victims Compensation Scheme and, compounding that, has destroyed it retrospectively. The 24,000-odd claimants who have gone through the emotional turmoil of filing claims with the Victims Compensation Tribunal are having their rights taken away retrospectively. A submission from the Victims and Witnesses of Crime Court Support Inc., which was sent to me and to the Attorney General among others, stated:
- The Victims and Witnesses of Crime Court Support Inc. is astounded at the timing of this Bill in the middle of public hearings of the Special Commission and at the commencement of private sessions of the Royal Commission. This is another block for adult survivors of child abuse seeking justice.
I echo those words and concerns. So what will this bill do? I will outline briefly some of the things that may be seen as positives in the bill. One of the positives is that it focuses on timeliness, and consequently payments will be made more quickly. It is well known that payments need to be made more quickly because under the current scheme there is a significant backlog—the average delay in processing claims is 31 months. This is the result of historical underfunding, not because it is an overly complex system. There is not enough money to manage the scheme and to assess the claims for compensation. A focus on timeliness is a good thing but it is not a goal in and of itself. Indeed, under this scheme many claims will be dealt with very quickly—they will be rejected either for being outside the time frame or because the new, more onerous evidentiary requirements in the bill cannot be proved.The bill establishes a Commissioner of Victims Rights. Although the commissioner will not be an independent person—basically it will be another bureaucrat working in the department—this is a modest step forward. The bill remakes the Charter of Victims Rights but does not make it enforceable. It proposes slightly more prompt access to counselling for some victims but this will be seriously capped in almost all cases. The structure of financial assistance up to $30,000 in rare cases may provide a modest benefit for a very small class of victims. At best, those are the benefits of the bill that I can see. But weighed against them is a raft of such savage attacks on the rights of victims of crime that the bill ought to be defeated. In any fair-minded Chamber, where elected representatives were genuinely concerned about the impact of legislation, this bill would be defeated on the voices.Retrospectivity is the first attack I wish to focus on. The Government is proposing that these changes be retrospectively applied to each and every claim under the Victims Compensation Scheme. We now know that there are approximately 24,000 claims. Those 24,000 individuals have often relived the trauma of the crime they suffered. They have spoken to a psychiatrist or a psychologist and have often had to approach family members or others from their past to get corroborating witness statements about the crimes. I have spoken to victims who have told me that going through that process of reliving the crime and talking to medical professionals can be deeply traumatic. They have night sweats and trouble sleeping. They have difficulty attending work simply because they are going through the process of gathering together documentation to make a claim. Some 24,000 people have made claims in good faith on a promise that their entitlements would be in the form outlined in the current Act. The Government has changed the rules on them midway through the process.
Indeed, what is worse is that many claimants have already gone through the system in the Victims Compensation Tribunal and obtained a determination. However, under this bill, if three months have not elapsed from the time they received a decision in the Victims Compensation Tribunal to the time the bill was announced by the Attorney General—even if they had gone through all the trauma and finally received a decision; even if they felt they had some minor recognition of their insult—they will lose their entitlement. They will be hit by retrospectivity. This bill is ugly law. As I said, many people have been waiting years to have their claims determined. However, none of that matters to the Government, which simply wants every saving from the scheme paid for by victims. The Government does not care which victim it is or how much it hurts. In terms of retrospectivity, Marrickville Legal Centre said:
- We submit that the retrospective application of the New Scheme, in effect, fails to recognise the time and energy victims have already invested in their applications. It also deprives victims of their legitimate expectation that there will be certainty in the law and legal process surrounding their claims.
- Some of our clients have been in the compensation scheme process for up to 31 months. These victims of crime have been very patient in respect of their applications and may now find that they fail to meet the new criteria under the New Scheme.
- Further, those victims who have already had their matters determined, and compensation amounts awarded, may also now find themselves in a position where their award remains uncertain, with the possibility that it may be now revoked or diminished, should the New Scheme apply.
- MLC submits that these results are both unjust and unfair to victims who have already suffered considerable loss, pain and psychological trauma in most instances.
MLC requests that Parliament maintain the current victims compensation scheme for existing claimants, and amend the Bill so as to exclude the New Scheme’s retrospective operation.
If The Greens, together with other members in the Chamber, do not have a majority to defeat the bill in its entirety, we will move amendments to stop the retrospectivity of this bill. A second—and one would think fatal—problem with this legislation is what it does in terms of time limits. It proposes a time limit of only two years for most claims—that is less than the standard time limit for other civil claims, which is three years—and a maximum of 10 years where the claim is one of sexual assault, child abuse or domestic violence. That can be 10 years from the time of the crime or 10 years from the age of majority, whichever is the longer. We know absolutely that a 10-year time limit, particularly in relation to child sexual abuse, is effectively a time bar for most claimants. The research that has been done on the time it takes victims to come forward to report historic child sexual abuse makes that absolutely clear. In what I can only say was a reasoned and carefully worded submission, Bravehearts said:
- Survivors of child sexual assault face enormous barriers in disclosing. The impacts of child sexual assault typically mean that the victims do not disclose until they feel safe to do so, and this frequently does not occur until some time has passed, certainly past the 10 year limitation period proposed in the
NSW Victims Rights and Support Bill 2013
- In Queensland, the Project Axis survey found that of 212 adult survivors:
- · 25 took 5-9 years to disclose it;
- · 33 took 10-19 years; and
- · 51 took more than 20 years.
- Where the perpetrator is a relative, research shows an even more prolonged process. A Criminal Justice Commission analysis of Queensland Police Service data found that of 3,721 reported offences committed by relatives:
- · 25.5% of survivors took 1-5 years to report the acts;
- · 9.7% took 5-10 years;
- · 18.2% took 10-20 years, and
- · 14.2% took more than 20 years.
- Having been, in many cases, completely disempowered by an offender, the psychological consequences of child sexual assault have far reaching consequences: shame and guilt can often mean that survivors are unable to disclose until parents have passed away; many survivors are simply not ready to disclose as they may still be processing the psychological trauma and impacts of the sexual assault; and victims may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (essentially this means that a victim is aware of the harm they experienced but disassociate themselves from any reminders of the traumatic event, including litigation).
I will give one example that struck me. In September last year I organised and attended, with staff of the Newcastle Herald, a forum for victims of child sexual abuse by the Catholic Church in Newcastle. More than 400 people attended the forum. At the end of the forum there was an enormously emotional moment when victim after victim stood up in the hall and told their story about the abuse they had suffered. I saw 50-year-old, 60-year-old and 70-year-old men stand up and explain the impact of the abuse they had suffered as a child. One victim told me that he still had difficulty having his grandchild on his knee because that brought back the memory of the abuse he suffered on the knee of a priest.On my way home from the forum I received a message to call a person who had been at the forum. I called him the following day. He told me that when on his way home from the forum—this man was in his seventies; it was the first time he had been able to talk about the abuse he had suffered—he told his wife about the abuse. I remember thinking about the pain in that room and about the bravery of that man in telling his wife when he was in his seventies. To think that a majority in this House support legislation that will disentitle him to victims compensation and in doing so treat that whole class of victims with high-handed contempt for a budget saving—a saving that is overshadowed by other tax concessions on things such as poker machines—lays bare the Government’s morality and the ugliness of this bill.
I turn now to the recognition payments. What can only be described as insulting sums are being proposed as lump sum recognition payments for victims of crime. A category A recognition payment relates to an act of violence that apparently occurred in the course of the commission of a homicide. That is a lump sum payment of $15,000, which is reduced to less than half if there is no evidence of financial dependence. Other payments are $15,000 for the loss of a father and $7,500 for the loss of a child or a wife. That is downright insulting. Category B relates to sexual assault that resulted in serious bodily injury that involved an offensive weapon, that was carried out by two or more persons, or that is one of a series of related acts, with a cap of $10,000. Category C relates to sexual assault and attempted sexual assault resulting in serious bodily injury—I am saying this quickly but each of these crimes destroyed someone’s life. Each of these clauses I am talking about represents thousands of people whose lives have been destroyed by crime.
Category C relates to an assault resulting in grievous bodily harm or physical assault of a child that is one of a series of related acts, with a recognition payment of $5,000. The Government does not even call it compensation because it knows that it is not compensation. It does not even pretend to be compensation. Category D applies to an indecent assault, an attempted sexual assault involving violence, a robbery involving violence or an assault, with a recognition payment of $1,500. In terms of domestic violence, many victims are financially dependent on their spouse, and they might suffer years of humiliation, belittling, pushing, shoving, intimidation—violence that does not become grievous bodily harm but shows a pattern of abuse that can psychologically destroy a victim’s life.
Victims can be physically intimidated and the only payment they will get under the new scheme is $1,500. The psychological impact—the actual impact of the crime—is irrelevant in the eyes of this Government. No-one will even be looking at the impact of the crime. Victims will be sliced and diced on the criminal classification of the crime that occurred—irrespective of the damage done to their life; irrespective of the fact that it may destroy their life—and receive $1,500.
I do not have time to read out all the enormously valuable submissions that my office received from so many groups, but I will read onto the record some of the groups that indicated their strong opposition to the bill: Community Legal Centres NSW, Bravehearts, the Homicide Victims Support Group, the Victims and Witnesses of Crime Support Incorporated, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, Uniting Care Burnside, Jenny’s Place Women and Children’s Refuge, Women’s Legal Services NSW, the Marrickville Legal Centre, the Illawarra Legal Centre and the Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre. I stop there to say that more than 10 per cent of claimants under the current scheme are Aboriginal. Does the Government care? No, it does not care about an already disadvantaged, marginalised group that will be further damaged by this legislation.
I received further submissions from the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre, the Newcastle Domestic Violence Resource Centre, Care Legal, Artemis Legal, Kelso’s The Law Firm and Kenny Spring Solicitors. My office has been contacted by many individuals and their families, friends, psychologists and counsellors. Do I hear yawning from the Government side?
- No. 1 Page 20, clause 29 (4) (a), line 32. Omit “financially”.
- No. 2 Page 20, clause 29 (4) (b), line 36. Omit “financially”.
These amendments provide that a close relative of a homicide victim who was not financially dependent but who was emotionally and otherwise dependent on the victim can claim compensation as a family victim. As horrific as it is, these circumstances happen all too often. If the female partner of a married couple who was a homemaker was killed as a result of a criminal act, according to the definition of a family victim in this bill—that is, a person who is financially dependent—the husband would be unable to claim compensation. The husband would not be financially dependent and would also not fall within the definition in clause 29 (4) (b), which refers to the child of the primary victim.
This amendment allows a person to be a dependent family member if they are found by the commissioner to be dependent upon the primary victim at the relevant time. If this amendment is not agreed to, that husband could not claim any form of compensation as a family victim. I note that this amendment has the strong support of the Homicide Victims’ Support Group, which has urged all parties to agree to it. Government and crossbench members must not prevent family members who are emotionally but not financially dependent on a murdered person from claiming compensation in that situation. I commend the amendments to the Committee.
- Section 36 (1) (a) and (b) differentiates between different family members insofar as recognition payments are concerned. If your spouse is murdered and you are dependent on that person you will receive $15,000 under the proposals. If you are not dependent then you will receive nothing. If a child is murdered then the parent will receive $7,500. The criteria appears to be financial dependency but the impact of murder on a family member goes far deeper.
- How do we tell a parent whose child was murdered that the Government will give them a recognition payment of only $7,500 for the killing of their child? The Homicide Victims Support Group was the organisation that initially pressed for the current structure to be expanded, offering additional services of counselling and other out-of-pocket expenses to deal with the complexities of the criminal justice system. Families will be far worse off under the proposals. Siblings are ineligible to receive monetary recognition payment or other expenses. If there are no dependents then the siblings should be eligible together with all other family members as defined.
How do you tell a parent that the death of their child means they get only a $7,500 recognition payment? How do you say that the parent’s loss of a child is valued at half of what the loss of a dependent spouse would be? How do you draft and support legislation in this House that makes those kinds of distinctions? It is obscene. I commend the amendments to the Committee.
- No. 1 Page 23, clause 35 (3). Insert after line 17:
- (e) domestic violence (being any act referred to in paragraph (f) of the definition of
sexual assault and domestic violence
- in section 19) that is one of a series of related acts of domestic violence.
This amendment will insert in clause 35(3) a new subparagraph (e) for category C recognition payments of $5,000 by reason of the regulations that are contained in the schedule to the bill. This new category will be where the act of violence involved domestic violence being an act referred to subparagraph (f) of the definition of sexual assaults and domestic violence in clause 19 (4) of the bill, which states:
- … a
series of related acts
- is two or more acts that are related because:(a) they were committed against the same person, and
- (b) in the opinion of the Tribunal or the Commissioner:
- (i) they were committed at approximately the same time, or
- (ii) they were committed over a period of time by the same person or group of persons, or
- (iii) they were, for any other reason, related to each other.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that those victims of domestic violence are not given only the paltry $1,500 category D payment. I do not think anyone in this Chamber could pretend that $5,000 as a recognition payment goes anywhere near adequately compensating a woman who has been the subject of repeated domestic violence. However, it can be a statement by the Parliament that $1,500 is grossly insulting in those circumstances. Unless this amendment gets up, women who have potentially been the victim of longstanding domestic violence or intimidation, bullying or assaults that do not occasion grievous bodily harm that leads to potentially substantial psychological trauma will get a category D recognition payment in the sum of only $1,500 and a few counselling sessions from the Victims Compensation Scheme. The Government proposes that deeply insulting payment in this bill. The conservative crossbench members in the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party appear to think that that is an adequate payment for women suffering from domestic violence. The women and children’s refuge named Jenny’s Place sent a submission to all members. It states:
- We are concerned most of the women we see would be ineligible for compensation under the proposed new scheme even though many of them have been victims of serious domestic violence involving physical abuse, intimidation and stalking over periods of many months and sometimes over many years. Most of these women would not meet the “grievous bodily harm” criteria. In cases of sexual assault, this is in most cases impossible to prove in the absence of witnesses. In addition, many women do not report to authorities for a variety of reasons, including fears that the perpetrator may carry out threats to harm the women or her children, shame or for cultural reasons
- Jenny’s Place also stated:
- The detrimental psychological impact of domestic violence can continue for years. In fact many of the women we see have made comments to the effect that the bruises can heal but the psychological harm lasts for years. As an example; one of the woman assisted recently by our service had a gun held to her head. That leaves no bruises, however it is very simple to understand her ongoing terror at the thought of further contact with her former partner and her dilemma in deciding whether she should report to police at the risk of very serious retaliation.
The Government would give that woman a category D recognition payment of $1,500—absent this amendment. The amendment would not make the scheme fair for victims of domestic violence but it would show that we recognise that repeated instances of domestic violence, and the harm that our society suffers and women suffer in these situations, elevates them beyond receiving the very lowest category of recognition payment. I commend the amendment.
- No. 2 Page 25, clause 39 (2), line 1. Insert “or provider of support services,” after “Government agency”.
Clause 39 of the bill describes the documentary evidence required to accompany an application for victims support. It makes it clear that in order to get to first base certain documentary evidence is required to have one’s application considered. It says, without limiting what other documents the Government can require in an approved form, the documentary evidence required for an application for financial assistance for economic loss under new section 26 or new section 27 or for a recognition payment is a police report or report of a government agency and a medical, dental or counselling report verifying that the applicant or child who is the primary victim concerned has been injured as a result of an act of violence. That means that, unless one has the support of a police report or a formal government agency that acknowledges and accepts the loss, one cannot get to first base.This amendment, if successful, would also allow for a document supporting a claim to be provided by a provider of support services such as a rape counselling centre, a crisis centre or a women’s support centre, and support services are defined under the Act. This is most crucial in cases of historical child sexual assault. For example, a child could have been the subject of repeated rape as a child and not disclose it until 40 years down the track, by which time the perpetrator may have died and there is no evidence that the police or another government agency can act upon. There are simply no documents but there may be support in medical records. There may be strong support from a counselling service or a women’s health service that hears the complaint, accepts the complaint, looks at the earlier medical records and puts in a report supporting the complaint.In those cases—particularly in cases of historical child sexual abuse—unless this amendment is successful this harsh requirement for documentary evidence will mean that many legitimate claims from victims will never get to first base. They will be ruled out because they cannot get together the documentation that will allow their application to be accepted under this new system. The Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party have said that they want to extend the time in which victims of child sexual assault can make a claim for compensation. If they do that but they do not support this amendment, they will be going only a very small way to allowing those victims of historic child sexual abuse to have a valid claim. If they cannot get the support of a police report or another government agency report—and in so many cases they will not be able to—they will be excluded from compensation under this scheme. I commend The Greens amendment No. 2 to the Committee.
- No. 3 Page 25, clause 40 (5), lines 38 and 40. Omit “10 years” wherever occurring. Insert instead “20 years”.
This amendment, if successful, would have the effect of omitting “10 years” wherever it occurs in clause 40 (5) and replacing it with “20 years”. By no means is this amendment a whole answer to the grossly unfair time limit provisions but in many ways it travels with two further amendments that The Greens will move separately about a general discretion to extend time and the removal of any time limit in relation to child sexual assault. If this amendment succeeds it will extend to 20 years the time limit for an application for a recognition payment in respect of an act of violence if the act of violence involved domestic violence, child abuse or sexual assault. It includes any element of child abuse, not just child sexual abuse. It includes any application involving domestic violence and any application involving sexual assault and it extends the time limit to 20 years in relation to each of those categories. We have heard, chapter and verse, why 10 years is grossly inadequate for these kinds of claims. I do not pretend that 20 years is the complete answer but it is definitely a substantial improvement.
- No. 4 Page 26, clause 40. Insert after line 8:
- (7) The Commissioner may, on the application of a person, extend the time for the making of an application by the person for financial support or a recognition payment if the Commissioner considers it would be appropriate and desirable to do so, having regard to the following:
- (a) the person’s age when the act of violence was committed,
- (b) whether the person has an impaired capacity,
- (c) whether the person who allegedly committed the act of violence was in a position of power, influence or trust in relation to the person,
- (d) the physical or psychological effect of the act of violence on the person,
- (e) whether the delay in making the application undermines the possibility of a fair decision,
- (f) any other matter the Commissioner considers relevant.
This amendment inserts a general discretion for the commissioner to allow an extension of time for anyone to make an application for a financial support or recognition payment if the commissioner believes it appropriate and desirable having regard to a number of factors. Those factors are set out in paragraphs (a) to (f). Without this amendment no discretion is provided to extend time in which to make an application. If a victim of a crime not of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse did not make an application within two years, he or she would have absolutely no ability to make a late application.
In some horrific incidents a victim could be in a coma for two years, recover and go see a lawyer but would be excluded from making a claim. The trauma of a crime could put the victim into a psychiatric institute for 2½ years. On discharge from that institute after 2½ years, unless the victim fits into one of the categories that entitle him or her to a 10-year application, he or she will have no possible way to extend the time to allow his or her claim to be made. How could these time limits be included without a discretion to extend time? The wording we have adopted for this amendment is almost exactly the same as that found in section 53 of the Queensland Act to allow an extension of time. The Queensland Government thought it was essential to allow some kind of fairness in its Act.
- No. 5 Page 26, clause 40. Insert after line 8:
- (7) This section does not apply to an application for financial support or a recognition payment for a person who is a primary victim of an act of violence that occurs in the course of the commission of a sexual offence against the person when the person is under 18 years of age. There is no time limit on when such an application can be made.
This amendment in large part replicates an amendment previously moved by the Labor Opposition, which would apply no time limits in relation to an application for financial support or a recognition payment for a person who is a primary victim of an act of violence that occurs in the course of the commission of a sexual offence against the person when the person is under 18 years of age and there is no time limit on when such an application can be made. It does not limit the classes of financial assistance or recognition payments which the person would be entitled to. It removes all time limits for claims for financial support or a recognition payment when the victim is a victim of child abuse. I commend the amendment to the House.
- up to $5,000 for expenses associated with criminal or coronial proceedings relating to the act of violence, making statements to police, preparing victim impact statements and similar justice related expenses.
Clearly that includes legal costs, but it is a tiny fraction of a victim’s legal costs in those circumstances. The last point is that victims can potentially receive a recognition payment. The maximum that a victim of child abuse in those cases could receive would be a category B recognition payment of $10,000. That is for truly horrific and repeated sexual assault. Most victims of child abuse, repeated sexual assault, or an individual instance where they are able to prove sexual assault would receive a maximum of $5,000, some as little as $1,500. The Christian Democrats say this is a sufficient quid pro quo to support this bill. It is not; it is an insult to victims of crime. By saying they are happy that this is all victims of crime will receive, they have ignored all the victims of domestic violence and all other victims of crime, who will be washed out by the Christian Democrats. They have given not one thing to families who have lost a loved one through homicide. All of the time that the homicide victim support groups have spent with the Christian Democrats has been for nothing. It is with great reluctance that we support this amendment. It is utterly unacceptable, even with the third reading of the bill.
- No. 10 Page 66, schedule 2, clause 2 (1), lines 25 and 26. Omit all words on those lines.
- No. 11 Pages 67 and 68, schedule 2, clauses 4–8, line 19 on page 67 to line 38 on page 68. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
4 Application of Act
- (1) This Act extends to an act of violence that occurred before the date of assent to this Act but does not apply to or in respect of an application for statutory compensation made before the date of assent to this Act (
a pending application
- (2) The repealed Act continues to apply (as if it had not been repealed) to and in respect of a pending application.
- (3) For the purposes of the application of the repealed Act (as provided by subclause (2)) to and in respect of a pending application, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal has and is to exercise the functions and jurisdiction of the Victims Compensation Tribunal under the repealed Act.
- (4) Victims support is not payable under this Act to a primary victim, secondary victim or family victim of an act of violence if the victim has been or is awarded compensation or assistance under the repealed Act.
- No. 12 Page 69, schedule 2, clause 11, lines 17–21. Omit all words on those lines.
These amendments would go a significant way to taking the sting out of the retrospectivity being proposed by the Government. Even in its workers compensation laws, which had bucket loads of grossly unfair retrospectivity, the Government did not go as far as it has gone here with the victims compensation scheme. The Government is proposing that every claim that is in the pipeline, every incident of violence before this bill was introduced into the other place, is captured by the amended scheme unless the application had been finally determined, and “by finally determined” the Government means determined by the Victims Compensation Tribunal and then a period of three months having elapsed after that so that there is no possibility for an appeal.
This means that 24,000 claims in the pipeline will have these grossly unfair changes retrospectively applied to them; they are 24,000 victims of crime, the great majority of whom have perfectly valid applications and who in many cases have relived the emotional trauma of the initial crime and seen approved experts appointed by the Victims Compensation Tribunal to validate their claim. One victim told me she had been a victim of child sexual abuse and raped repeatedly from the age of three. She was required to go back to her school friends to ask them about their observations of her from the young age of five years. This woman in her fifties had to go back and relive the appalling events that had happened to her from the age of three into her teens. She had to ask her family members, “Do you remember what I was like as a child? Do you remember those traumatic incidents and how I was?” When she asked her family members and school friends she had to relive the gross appalling trauma that happened to her.
This woman had to speak to doctors and relive the trauma. She had long periods where she could not sleep because of what had happened to her and long periods of suffering genuine psychological trauma because she had to relive the events when making her application. Despite this the Government says that it will not commit to honouring the relatively meagre payments under the prior scheme of a maximum of $50,000 but, rather, seeks to retrospectively amend her entitlements. Even with the Christian Democrat amendments this woman is likely to receive as little as $10,000 or $15,000, and that is if she can prove her claim given the harsh new evidentiary requirements imposed under the scheme. For those 24,000 citizens of New South Wales who have been the victims of crime I urge the majority of members to accept the amendments.