Australia's PM announces royal commission into child sex abuse | Asia Pacific

Australia's PM announces royal commission into child sex abuse

Australia's PM announces royal commission into child sex abuse

Updated 12 November 2012, 22:24 AEDT

There's to be a national Royal Commission in Australia, into the sexual abuse of children in institutions.

The Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced it late this afternoon.

Interviewer: Mark Colvin

Speaker: Lexi Metherell, ABC reporter

METHERELL: Well, Mark, we've seen key independents, Labor backbenchers, and Greens MPs calling all day and over the weekend for a royal commission into child sexual abuse after the allegations made by the New South Wales Detective Inspector Peter Fox on Lateline last week about the Catholic Church derailing many investigations.

Last week in Bali the Prime Minister said she was considering her decision on this matter, her position, and not long ago she called a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra after a cabinet meeting today where she announced that she will recommend to the governor-general that a royal commission be held into institutional child abuse.

Now the Prime Minister spoke about exactly what it was that made her come to this decision, and she said that it's been the revelations in recent weeks of institutional cover-ups.

GILLARD: The impact for me - clearly over the past few weeks, we've seen revelations in the newspapers, and more broadly, which really go to the question of cover-up, of other adults not doing what they should have done to come to assist.

We also are now in a circumstance where two states have different inquiries on foot, and because of the allegations of moving people around, this is something that goes beyond the borders of any one state. I've come to the view in those circumstances that a national approach is best.

COLVIN: Just to explain that reference to moving people around, that's the idea that priests who were found to have abused children might just then be moved interstate to work with other children.

METHERELL: Yes that's right, and that's why there have been calls for this to be a national royal commission, something that traverses all state boundaries, because at the moment as you know, we have an inquiry to begin in New South Wales, there's one going on in Victoria, but people have said that you can't really have state-based inquiries into this because people have been moved from place to place.

COLVIN: So a lot is obviously going to depend on the terms of reference of this royal commission - any indications there?

METHERELL: No, we don't know what they are yet, but they are going to be very broad. This is, Prime Minister says this is going to focus beyond the Catholic Church - it won't just be on the Catholic Church, it will be focussing on religious organisations, schools, state institutions in general.

However, it is telling that one of the people that the Prime Minister's called today was the Cardinal George Pell, the head of the Catholic Church in Australia. She hasn't spoken to other religious leaders, she said today.

Now, there will be a period of consultation over the shape of this royal commission - that will be led by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, and the Minister for Families, Brendan O'Connor. So they will be liaising with groups who represent victims of child abuse, they will be liaising with religious organisations about the shape of this royal commission.

So we don't know yet who will be actually on the commission's panel itself, we don't the terms of reference, but that should take shape over the coming months. 

COLVIN: And it should all be bipartisan, because Tony Abbott, or the Federal Opposition, made a statement about this, this afternoon.

METHERELL: Yes he did. The Leader of the Opposition put out a statement saying that if the Government was to call for a royal commission, the Opposition would support that, and I guess one of the keys to his statement was that the Opposition wants it to be across all institutions as well, not just focussing on one institution, and that is what this royal commission will be about, as the Prime Minister said today.

COLVIN: It will be very interesting to see what powers it has, and also, of course, who chairs this royal commission, but no indication of that yet, obviously?

METHERELL: No indication of that yet, but the Prime Minister says that she hopes work will start, the commission will start at the start of next year. She wants the terms of reference to be decided by the end of this year.

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