Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 August 2010) . . Page.. 3438 ..
the benefit of victims of crime will now also form part of the commissioner’s statutory role.
Again, I note that Mrs Dunne, in her critique of this bill, suggested that a more worthwhile reform was to improve compensation payments available to victims of crime. Of course, Mrs Dunne should reflect on the fact that it was the previous Liberal government that moved to substantially reduce the amount of payments available under that scheme. Perhaps she should reflect on the hypocrisy of her position.
The Victims of Crime Coordinator has performed this function under delegation from the Chief Executive of the Department of Justice and Community Safety. It is sensible to add this as a statutory function of the commissioner to remove any ambiguity in this regard.
With respect to the functions afforded to the commissioner, the bill subscribes to current drafting practice whereby the commissioner will have the power to undertake all the functions given to the position, as evidenced by the note to proposed section 11, which provides that a provision of law that gives an entity, including a person, a function also gives the entity powers necessary and convenient to exercise the function.
Another significant reform is the inclusion of new complaints and investigations functions within the bill. This role was the subject of considerable deliberation by the reference group. Informing the reference group was the paper written by the coordinator entitled Reform of the Victims of Crime Act 1994—options for rights protections, which was provided to both me and the reference group. Within that paper, the VoCC provided three possible options for reform in the complaints and investigations role. These options were considered in careful detail by the reference group and elements of the VoCC’s option 3, entitled “Enhanced advocacy”, were considered to be the most viable option.
These elements included the VoCC having an enhanced advocacy role in complaints, approaching in the first instance the offending agency for resolution, and then, if not resolved, referral to the Ombudsman. However, one can easily envisage situations where asking a victim of crime to go back to the agency they had a concern about may be non-productive. For example, if the essence of a complaint centres on failure to respond to requests for information or assistance or inadequate support provided by the agency then it may be of little or no assistance to the victim for him or her to reiterate their request. Therefore, the bill outlines the complaints handling role.
A victim of crime has the option of bringing to the attention of the commissioner a concern about non-compliance with the governing principles by an agency involved in the administration of justice. The commissioner can, through their advocacy and the new functions in section 12 of the bill, raise the issue with the agency concerned, including making a reasonable request for information required to address the issue. With the consent of the victim, the agency must give the commissioner any document or information that the agency would otherwise provide to the victim to help the commissioner resolve the concern.