MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (21:14:49) — My adjournment matter is for the Attorney-General, and the action I seek relates to clergy mandatory reporting. On 11 July 2018, this government released its response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, indicating:
The Victorian government will give further consideration to the key recommendation that mandatory reporting laws should not exempt people in religious ministry from being required to report information disclosed in a religious confession.
In my question without notice on this topic on 27 July 2018 I highlighted evidence from the royal commission, including that of Father Michael McArdle, who admitted that he had confessed an estimated 1500 sexual assaults to approximately 30 priests over 30 years and none had reported him, and Father Rubeo, who upon a child disclosing abuse by him, immediately confessed to Father O’Donnell and received absolution, only to immediately state, ‘Now you can’t report me’. These are two horrifying examples of the protections that religious privilege currently affords to child sexual abuse perpetrators. Minister Tierney replied that:
QUOTE AWAITING VERIFICATION.
The Council of Attorneys-General had agreed that as the privilege relating to the religious confession is part of the uniform evidence law, a national response is desirable and commissioned further work to develop a nationally consistent approach to this important issue.
Quite frankly to delay reform for this is a cop-out. From my perspective it is desirable that we act promptly on behalf of the 1500 victims of Father McArdle and the poor children on whom child sexual offences are being perpetrated now.
Right now our uniform evidence law is anything but uniform. It does not even exist in South Australia, Western Australia or Queensland. There are 20 sections of the Victorian Evidence Act 2008 that differ from at least one other Australian state or territory, so there is no uniform system, and I would say that there is no barrier to acting on this devastatingly important issue. South Australia has already done so. The action I seek is that the Attorney-General stop delaying on this and urgently act to remove this exemption from Victorian law for the sake and welfare of Victorian children.
The PRESIDENT — Ms Patten, you cannot actually call for legislation in the adjournment debate.
Ms PATTEN — The action I seek is that the Attorney-General please reconsider and consult with communities on how we can best protect these children.