Lawyers for abuse survivors say the Federal Government have gone for the lowest common denominator approach to secure sign-up for the national redress scheme, with the Government today conceding that any Senate push to address abuse survivor concerns and lift compensation amounts would be overridden by state agreements.
Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal Michelle James said the Federal Government's national redress scheme from the outset had been a significant departure from the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and it was now evident that this had been deliberate to ensure sign-on from states and institutions.
"Minister Dan Tehan is quoted today conceding that if 'the Senate were to unilaterally alter key elements of the agreed scheme, it may place the whole national redress scheme at risk' – a comment that makes clear that the priority has been about securing sign-on, irrespective of that meaning the lowest common denominator on redress for survivors," Ms James said.
"This is a farcical situation, legislation for a national scheme is currently being reviewed by a Senate Committee, but its findings – including any push to raise the cap on compensation to $200,000 as advocated by survivors – won't be worth the paper it's written on, because the national scheme will simply be superseded by what the states have agreed to.
"If the Federal Government had ensured from the outset that its national redress scheme was consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, including a $200,000 cap on compensation, we wouldn't be having this debate now – we would be working towards implementing a fair scheme that all states and institutions would also have to follow.
"Instead what we now have is the Federal Government playing politics with its deal with New South Wales and Victoria to undermine any attempt by the Senate and survivors to strengthen its own scheme in line with the Royal Commission's recommendations.
"The question that must be asked is: what is the point of having a Senate Committee process to deal with the national redress scheme, if the end result is ignoring that Committee's findings because any national scheme will ultimately need to mirror what the states agreed to.
"It is a ridiculous situation and a lowest common denominator approach from the Federal Government – abuse survivors deserve much better," she said.