Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee; Reference
That the following matters be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 14 April 2012:
(a) the need for national law reform surrounding evidence relating to child sex abuse, specifically looking at the role federal laws could play in requiring documents relating to child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, to be held for a minimum of 30 years;
(b) the need for national law reform to prevent the destruction and concealment of documents which should be retained in the public interest, including documents in relation to potential legal proceedings;
(c) the circumstances under which documents should be categorised as Cabinet in Confidence;
(d) the appropriateness or otherwise of victims of child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, being required to sign confidentiality agreements as part of any compensation arrangements and the need for any consequential law reform;
(e) in relation to events relating to allegations of abuse in the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in Queensland from 1988:
(i) the shredding of documents by the then Queensland Government in 1990 relating to the alleged rape of a resident at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in 1988, and other abuses and the implications these actions had on the ability of victims and others to pursue their legal rights with reference to section 129 of the Queensland Criminal Code, and the need for a national approach to the protection of such documents,
(ii) previous Queensland Government initiated inquiries and federal parliamentary inquiries into the matters referred to at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre,
(iii) whether evidence provided to previous Senate committee inquiries about the shredding of the documents referred to was misleading, or whether evidence was withheld from previous Senate committee inquiries and whether there is any new evidence relating to these matters, and
(iv) the relevance of considering the matters raised in paragraphs (a) to (d); and
(f) any other related matters.
The government does not support this motion. The government notes that this is the second time this year that Senator Xenophon has sought the Senate's intervention in this matter, which arose out of incidents that occurred at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in 1988. The Senate has inquired into these matters to the limits of its jurisdiction in four substantial inquiries stretching over more than a decade. In all of these inquiries the Senate committees were unable to find evidence to substantiate the numerous allegations.
There are undoubtedly matters of concern in these events. The main question that should be asked is what jurisdiction does the Senate have to achieve any justice for any of the victims now and what can the Senate do now that it has not already done. For those reasons the government does not support the motion.
The previous inquiries related to horrendous events that occurred at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre back in 1988 when a 14-year-old girl was gang raped. There was a cover-up of what occurred and a shredding of documents. There have been previous inquiries but at none of those inquiries was the victim at the centre of these allegations ever given an opportunity to appear. This woman has approached my office and she is desperate to give evidence to set the record straight so that there can be some finality to what occurred.
There are fundamental issues of law reform here. Senator Ludwig is wrong in relation to this. There are issues in terms of the destruction of documents, in terms of legal proceedings and in terms of federal law reform in dealing with documents in relation to child sexual abuse so that there can be a national uniform approach. There are a number of fundamental aspects of law reform that need to be dealt with, and the victim wants to come forward so that the record can be set straight once and for all.