Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4250 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
the whole range of victims' needs, with a mix of rehabilitative, practical and financial assistance. So, let me start with rehabilitation.
There is a tidal wave of research coming in now which links health and recovery with perceived independence and with control over your work, your environment and your life. This information is evident in studies of education, in studies of inmates in gaol, in studies linking health and occupation, in research on healthy cities and healthy communities, and in studies on recovery from illness. Payment in recognition of pain and suffering offers victims some independence. If you have been violated, betrayed, victimised, harassed, persecuted, maimed, tortured or demoralised, some sense of autonomy can be crucial to your chances of reconstructing a positive sense of self. Without such a sense of self, rehabilitation may be much harder to achieve.
Payment in recognition of pain and suffering sends a signal that some of the responsibility and opportunity to rebuild that sense of self is in your hands. Government offers you compensation as some measure of acknowledgment of the failure of society to you as a victim of crime. We should combine that benefit with the recognition that pain and suffering payments offer to victims of crime.
The Women's Legal Service again emphasised the importance of pain and suffering payments when addressing this Bill last month. The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, in a media release last Monday, attacked the Government for shifting the focus to welfare, which can be a disabling and pejorative term. It argued that payment in recognition of pain and suffering is seen as an acknowledgment of our communal inability to protect persons from the unacceptable crime of sexual assault.
The Victims of Crime Assistance League argued in their submission to the committee's inquiry, and reiterated on Tuesday, that maintenance of payment for pain and suffering is crucial to the provision of flexible services and support. In its submission to the committee, Legal Aid argued that the removal of lump sum payments would impact negatively on the poorer and underprivileged members of our society. The AFP Association predicted that fewer complaints would come to them of paedophile activities if payments for pain and suffering were withdrawn. These organisations base their position on the real experiences of victims of crime in the Territory.
The committee itself remained unconvinced that there was any justification for removing lump sum payments in recognition of pain and suffering. It did not accept the government argument that pain and suffering was a less satisfactory option for victims and quoted further evidence that such payments encouraged victims to report crime and draw them into a system which can offer also other forms of assistance. Despite a series of examples selectively presented to the media by the Minister, the committee could not find evidence of rorting the system under this provision. Yet the Government was not convinced.
It has pointed to schemes such as the one in Victoria that moved right away from compensation payments. A review of the Victorian scheme has now been completed. The committee recommended that this legislation be delayed until that review was released. It is before the Victorian Attorney-General now, I understand, and will be released shortly. If the Government was serious about building on the experience of