Extract from Hansard [ASSEMBLY – Tuesday, 11 August 2009].
MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [4.12 pm]: The Greens (WA) support the opposition in calling for this government to support the original Redress WA scheme. The $80 000 promised payment was not compensation – we have heard that in the chamber today; we are told that it was an acknowledgement. There is no escaping the reality that the acknowledgement of this tragedy has now been halved for the victims.
We have found out that there are more traumatised victims, and so our solution, as a society, is to halve the acknowledgement to them. This decision shows a blatant disrespect for the victims – children who were the most vulnerable in our society. This abuse affects these people for their whole lives. It does not go away. It leaves them damaged, with low self-esteem, and in some cases affects their income-earning capacity. Therefore, in some ways it is about the money. I am getting a bit tired of sitting here hearing that it is not about the money. In many cases, for the most disadvantaged people in our society with no funds, it is about the money. They got their hopes up through promises that under this Redress WA scheme they could come forward, put their cases and get on with their lives. Now half the money for them has disappeared. This is disgraceful, it is heartless, and it is absolutely mean-spirited. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. He used the same words that I chose.
An amount of $45 000 is nothing when we consider recent high-profile settlements that have occurred when people in our society have been damaged and have been through the court system. Their compensation runs into millions. One has only to look at the Mallard case to see this. The government’s decision is short-sighted, and it will be a false economy in the long run. Lawyers for redress victims have advised the Greens today that claimants will now have to look at criminal injuries compensation and the uncertainty of common law, so our already-overstretched court system will be placed under more pressure as these cases start clogging up our system. Victims will be forced to relive their trauma to prove their case. We are looking down the barrel of a big black hole in the budget here – a black hole that will come to fruition in years to come.
The previous government started something with the Redress WA scheme. I urge the government to finish it for the victims so that they have some respect in this matter. If it is a priority for us as a society, we will find the money, just as we are finding the money for the Royal Perth Hospital that we cannot afford. It is about our priority as a society. I call on the government to bring this scheme into effect in the way that was initially intended.