Limitation of Actions (Child Sexual Abuse) Amendment Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:42): I rise to make a brief contribution to the Limitation of Actions (Child Sexual Abuse) Amendment Bill 2018. This bill fulfils the Marshall Liberal government's election commitment to abolish the limitation of actions period with respect to claims of child sexual abuse. It amends the Limitation of Actions Act 1936. So our government will improve access to justice for victims and recognises the importance of compensation for crimes committed against those who are survivors of child sexual abuse.

Victims of abuse, as we have heard today from the many speakers on either side, frequently do not disclose or even recognise the significance of that abuse until they are well into adulthood. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended the removal of the limitation of actions in these cases, having found it operated unreasonably to deny victims access to justice.

Our party in opposition previously introduced a bill in 2016 following the Nyland royal commission. This bill was never debated and had no support from the Labor Party. Recently our government opted in to the National Redress Scheme for victims of institutional sexual abuse. This legislative change adds another option of redress for survivors who wish to make a civil claim through the courts. We are a government putting victims first and ensuring they have appropriate mechanisms to seek compensation for horrendous crimes committed against them.

In enacting this legislation, South Australia will be the last state or territory to remove time limits for this type of abuse and personal injury. In regard to what we are doing with the bill, as I have indicated, it will abolish the limitation period for bringing a common-law action in personal injury for victims of child sexual abuse. Currently, there is a three-year window to make a claim, between the ages of 18 and 21.

This legislation will apply to all victims of child sexual abuse, not just those who were in institutional care. There will be a retrospective arrangement with the abolition of the limitation period. Where cases have already commenced, transitional provisions clarify that this bill will apply in circumstances where a cause of action has expired prior to the bill's commencement. In addition, courts will have the discretion to grant leave to parties to relitigate matters where they had been dismissed because of the limitation period.

The cost of compensation for these common-law claims will be borne by SAicorp, the government's insurer, if the court determines that the state is liable. More often than not, these claims are settled out of court to ensure victims are not placed under undue pressure. It is expected that most survivors will utilise the redress scheme to seek compensation. However, this only covers institutional crimes. I note that the Labor Party, the opposition, will introduce amendments to be moved in the other place and we will take a look at those between the houses.

As we have heard today, and as the father of a couple of young boys who are getting bigger—six foot two seems a common dimension around the place—you are always concerned about your child's welfare and every child's welfare. I remember the case of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon in 1973. I do not think Joanne Ratcliffe is still around, but if she were she would be my age. I believe she lost her life and a whole lifetime, but that is another matter. We do not know what terrible abuse may have happened to those two girls. Other such matters have happened over time, like the disappearance of the Beaumont children and other terrible activities, not just in this state but in the country and around the world.

It is pleasing to see that we, here in this parliament, are finally taking a stand against the actions of the evil perpetrators of child sexual abuse. I can hardly think of anything worse that could happen to a child, especially when you hear the stories of when they are in care, whether it is non-government care or institutional care, when the very people who should be looking after them are the actual perpetrators of that evil. It disgusts me to the core. We are taking a stand and moving this legislation. I note that the opposition will progress the bill through this place, and I salute the Attorney-General and the Minister for Education for taking a lead role in this debate. I commend the bill.

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