December 14, 2017

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Jenny Macklin is the Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services, she was there at the final hearing today, Jenny Macklin welcome.


KARVELAS: A national tragedy is what the Commissioner said, how do you describe what was uncovered by the Royal Commission?

MACKLIN: Well, he’s right. I’ve spent so much of the last few years talking to people who sometimes describe themselves as victims, other times as survivors, it is also a deeply personal tragedy. To see the hearing room packed today absolutely packed with people, many of whom were survivors themselves, many were family members, many advocates all there today to witness the final hearing from Justice McClellan and to acknowledge the extraordinary way in which so many people were willing to come forward and tell the truth about what had happened to them and to finally be believed. That really was such an overwhelming emotion today.

KARVELAS: The breadth of the injustice is hard to reckon with and I think difficult to acknowledge 

MACKLIN: That’s very true.

KARVELAS: What does Australia owe the thousands of people who told their stories.

MACKLIN: Well, first of all they owe them the right to be believed and what many of these people have said to me personally over the many years to now and have told the Royal Commission is that they do feel that they’ve finally found their voice. As one women wrote in the book that was presented today, she felt that her life had been destroyed but now feels as a result of the Royal Commission and being able to tell her story, having that story be believed and that she can begin to heal. So I think at a deeply personal level that’s the case. Of course I want to see a proper national redress scheme delivered that makes sure that those institutions and States along with the Commonwealth actually pay the redress that people are due, people have suffered so much. Then there are going to be all the changes to the laws that will need to be made and we’ll get the recommendations tomorrow, but we can anticipate that the Royal Commission will recommend a wide range of changes to laws to protect children in the future and also I expect they’ll make recommendations about how institutions will dramatically change their practices so that children are protected and never face this form of abuse again.

KARVELAS: Justice McClellan noted that the greatest number of abusers worked in Catholic institutions. No senior Catholic Church figures attended today, what did you make of that absence?

MACKLIN: I think that that’s just unbelievably disrespectful, actually. People need to face what’s happened over a long period of time. Of course there’s going to need to be enormous change both inside the Catholic Church but also all the other institutions, not just church institutions.  I think people in the states need to acknowledge that many state-run institutions subjected thousands of children to abuse. So I want to see both the churches and other religious organisations, community groups, the states themselves all have a responsibility to change their practices, to change their laws so that this doesn’t happen again. 

KARVELAS: If you’re just tuning in, my guest is Jenny Macklin, the Shadow Minister in this area. Julia Gillard who of course launched as Prime Minister this Royal Commission has suggested that charities lose their tax free status if they don’t the necessary action. Do you agree with that?

MACKLIN: Well, that’s going to be one method, I suspect that we’ll get a range of recommendations from the Royal Commission tomorrow about how to bring about those who subject children to child sexual abuse or other forms of abuse, frankly, should lose a whole range of supports that they get, including some legal rights to provide care and support to children. So we need to wait to see the recommendations but I for one want to say, we need to acknowledge the royal commissioners have done the most extraordinary job over a long period of time. They have the best understanding of these issues. So my starting point should be that we listen to them, first and foremost and listen to their recommendations both the laws the practices and the way in which children are cared for.

KARVELAS: The Federal Government has announced a redress scheme for those victims who were in government run institutions, are you satisfied with that redress scheme?

MACKLIN: No, I’m certainly not. I think it’s very disappointing. I had so many people talk to me today about it. First and foremost not one state has signed up so far and of course, well today the event being in Sydney there were quite a few people who were at the hearing who came from the dreadful Parramatta Girls Home where so much horrific abuse took place. Each of the states has a responsibility to join the redress scheme and it really is incumbent on the Commonwealth to work with States to bring them into the scheme and then of course the same with the institutions. We still have no institution, so many of whom have now been proven to be responsible for horrific abuse, they too need to come into the redress scheme and make sure people get just compensation.

KARVELAS: If the Government doesn’t change its redress scheme, of course its negotiating as Christian Porter has said with the States. Is Labor prepared to make that a promise at the next election? To increase the amounts of compensation and to deal with this issue differently?

MACKLIN: Well, we’d actually already made that commitment before this Government even started down the path of designing a second rate scheme.

KARVELAS: So the scheme would change if Labor was elected?

MACKLIN: It certainly would but I would say Patricia, people have waited a very long time for redress. So there is a senate inquiry that we’ve just established to make sure that people have got the chance to come forward with their views of the redress scheme and how it should be improved. So if anyone is listening and wants to make a submission, any individual can do so by the beginning of February. We’ll then have the opportunity to improve the scheme so we’ll certainly seek to do that if we can get the support in the Senate to improve the scheme. I’ll do everything I possibly can to make sure that happens.

KARVELAS: Jenny Macklin, many thanks for your time.

MACKLIN: Thank you, Patricia.