Page 1474 - Week 06 - Thursday, 2 July 2020

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information about child sexual abuse. Children are likely to have less ability to report the abuse or to take steps to protect themselves. We also know that those who commit child sexual abuse offences may have multiple victims and may offend against particular victims over lengthy periods of time. A failure to report leaves the particular child exposed to repeated abuse and exposes other children to abuse—leading to a fundamental breach of children’s most basic human rights to safety and protection.

I have spoken before about the primacy of children’s right to safety and the priority that must be accorded to their rights. It was for this reason that the reporting laws did not provide for an exemption for members of the clergy who receive information under religious confession. And, as I said when that legislation was introduced, the right to freedom of religion is not absolute and the freedom to practise religion in a particular way must never take precedence over children’s right to safety. Accordingly, it would be inconsistent to suspend the confessional privilege for the purpose of reporting child sexual abuse to police, only to have it operate during court proceedings. To do so would undermine the very purpose of the reporting laws introduced in 2019 and would hinder the prosecution of perpetrators.

I noted in relation to the previous legislation that there would be further reform to the uniform evidence legislation and I can advise that a Council of Attorneys-General working group developed model legislation to amend this legislation, removing any exemption for information received under seal of the confession from being divulged during relevant court proceedings under section 127 of the Evidence Act. This bill introduces those amendments, continuing to send the clear message that children’s rights are paramount and that we all play a part in keeping our society safe for children. Overall, the bill will improve the way society protects children from child sexual abuse. It will enhance the effectiveness of the ACT’s justice system in holding perpetrators accountable, and it will improve access to justice for victims.

It does this by turning the recommendations of the royal commission into concrete changes in our legislation that reflect our values and our solemn commitment to protect children, to hold perpetrators to account, to take responsibility and to implement the findings of the royal commission. We will keep working to improve our legal system, and we will keep demonstrating in our words, in our actions and in our laws that protecting children is our absolutely priority. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hanson) adjourned to the next sitting.

Victims Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2020

Mr Rattenbury, by leave, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Corrections and Justice Health, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety and Minister for Mental Health) (11.06): I move:

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