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Attorney-General and Justice – Commission of Inquiry

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 5 June 2023

Tags: Commission of Inquiry, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Attorney-General, the commission of inquiry will hand down its report in August and it is anticipated to have wide reaching recommendations on the basis of the testimony that was provided, will you commit to preparing the legislative changes that we can expect to come into place for the PIP Act and the State Service Act, amongst others? Will you commit to putting the resources of your department fully behind that to make sure that those changes are brought to parliament by the end of the year, if possible?

Ms ARCHER - Yes, we have committed to doing what we can in the meantime, before the recommendations are handed down by 31 August. The money in the budget that I have identified in my opening statement is that wrap-around support that is needed, but if more is required, we have of course committed to that as well because the resources or the extent of the resources is a bit of an unknown quantity, but we know it will be significant.

There is no escaping the fact that there will be significant recommendations. We will work as quickly as possible and prioritise things as well, because there will be things I am anticipating that will be more urgent than others. I well expect that there will be a significant number of recommendations across departments and we will need to work with other departments as well. Yes, I can commit to the appropriate resources, addressing things as quickly as possible - by that I mean as quickly as humanly possible - to ensure that we have both the resources in place and going through and addressing the recommendations.

Dr WOODRUFF - Have you identified those two acts in particular and already commenced the process of allocating staff and going through those acts on the basis of the testimony that was provided pre-emptively, understanding, as many of us do, the sorts of obvious changes that need to happen and setting that process in train, allocating specific staff? It is going to need immediate action.

Ms ARCHER - Yes. I might throw to Ms Webster on some of that stuff, or indeed Ms Bourne, if she has anything to add. In relation to looking at specific acts, there are lot of things that we can anticipate, as you have identified, that may be the subject of recommendations. As I have said, we are not waiting for the recommendations to actually commence that type of work. We are indeed looking at the areas that impact on my department. The whole idea of the resources is to ensure that we have people in place. I might just throw it to my secretary to add to that.

Ms WEBSTER - Thanks, Attorney-General. The State Service Act is obviously a matter for the Premier, but out of department works within an interagency working group around those keeping children safer reforms. We are working with DPAC and other departments around the PIP act, the RTI act and State Service Act review. It is regularly considered by the secretary's board. In terms of what resourcing we might need to consider post-commission of inquiry, we have already started those discussions and I will be discussing that with the Attorney-General in due course, once we identify and get over the work that we are doing around that commission of inquiry, but we have already started those discussions about how we move forward with those recommendations.

Dr WOODRUFF - And, finally, have you developed an internal time line for when you would expect to be able to have changes made to those acts? The details of what changes need to be made is one thing, but you ought to be able to anticipate now a time frame and deadlines for when certain stages will be done and draft legislation will be provided.

Ms ARCHER - Look, I am not quite sure that we can identify specific dates or anything like that at this stage, but as I said before, we will certainly prioritise the urgency of certain recommendations. I do not know if you have anything further to add in relation to what has been discussed at secretary's board level.

Ms WEBSTER - Through you, minister, we will need to wait until the commission of inquiry report is finally handed down. There may be some prioritisation in that report even but, at secretary's board again, we would be wanting to sit down and holistically we'll get one of the most important high priority recommendations to advance in a whole of Government approach rather than agency by agency.

Then we would be putting to our relevant ministers, and I certainly will be discussing with the Attorney-General, which of the priorities are the most important across Government. We do have to look at this holistically rather than department by department.

Dr WOODRUFF - Attorney-General, regarding the funding for the CARCRU, the Child Abuse Royal Commission Response Unit, the $30 million in the Budget for the next three years drops across the forward Estimates. That is for the next three years and then it drops over the forward Estimates. Does this estimate take into account the probable flood of civil cases against the state that would be expected to arise from the commission of inquiry's funding? Is that a bit wishful thinking, that reduction in funding to the CARCRU?

Ms ARCHER - We have provided significant funding to provide for compensation under the National Redress Scheme. Initially, it is the $70 million and now the additional $70 million on top of that. Then, operationally with CARCRU, I think it is expected to peter off as we get to the 10-year limit. Certainly, in terms of our CARCRU that address matters to do with predominantly national redress. We have also committed funding to address the issue of civil litigation. I think it is fair to say that there are two ways that someone who is a victim/survivor can go and that is either through the National Redress Scheme, which is far less onerous in that there is virtually no onus of proof. Therefore, no amount of compensation can ever give back what someone has lost in childhood.

An apology as part of that aspect is really important, as well as the counselling. We were very supportive of the National Redress Scheme and I remain so because as an alternative to civil litigation, it is a far easier process to go through. In terms of funding - I am probably getting off topic slightly - can I see if the secretary has something to say about that specific question you have asked?

Ms WEBSTER - Can I just clarify, Dr Woodruff, you said $30 million? I think it is $70 million for civil claims. The $30 million was actually to continue the implementation of the Keeping Children Safer reforms.

Dr WOODRUFF - The CARCRU budget funding?

Ms WEBSTER - Yes. The Government has provided almost $185 million around civil claims and redress. We have an additional $70 million. We found that where we need to request additional funding for that purpose, the Government has provided that funding. The Government is not able to say how much we expect to have as part of that civil claims process, but where we have needed to go back for additional funding because of civil claims, we have done that.

Dr WOODRUFF - As any observer of the commission of inquiry's hearings, there is obviously a general expectation that there will be civil litigations and it seems to be unusual that that funding is dropping off for CARCRU. I do not understand why that would be the case. We are concerned -

Ms ARCHER - I think you are confusing what CARCRU actually does and its role.

Dr WOODRUFF - You do not think it will be transferring over to work on the commission of inquiry results and recommendations?

Ms ARCHER - It is certainly there to deal with the development and the implementation of the Child and Youth Safe Organisations Legislative Framework. As to the extension of the future of CARCRU - I am just getting an interpretation from our finance manager - I think we might get Gavin Wailes up to the table. Gavin's official title is Director of Finance in the Department of Justice.

Mr WAILES - The Government has provided an extra $70 million in redress and civil claim funding in this Budget, which has been cashflowed at $20 million for next year, $20 million for a second year, $20 million for the third year and $10 million for the fourth year. At the moment that is an indicative estimate on the cashflow. To date, whenever the department has been short of funds to pay for these claims, including redress, the Government has provided additional funding through the RAF or through the supplementary appropriation process.

Ms ARCHER - And that includes the operation of CARCRU?

Mr WAILES - Yes.