Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (4.56 pm): I rise to speak on the Civil Liability and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. This bill results from the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commission’s report, titled Redress and civil litigation report, made recommendations to improve the capacity of the justice system to provide fair access and outcomes to survivors of child sexual abuse who wish to pursue a civil damages claim for personal injury arising from the abuse.
The main objective of this bill is to amend the Civil Liability Act 2003 in response to recommendations 91 to 94 in the report. According to the explanatory notes, this will be achieved by the following: introducing a reverse onus, applied prospectively, under which an institution must prove it took reasonable steps to prevent the sexual abuse of a child in its care by a person associated with the institution to avoid legal liability for the abuse, and establishing a statutory framework for the nomination of a proper defendant by an unincorporated institution to meet any liability incurred by the institution.
The LNP is concerned that the government has not adopted recommendations 89 and 90 of the report. These two key concerns include that the liability of institutions for child abuse only relates to sexual abuse, not physical abuse, and that the government failed to adopt the commission’s recommendations to introduce a strict non-delegable duty.
We have to always be aware of unintended consequences from legislation. Submissions from stakeholders raised concerns about organisations that will be caught up under broad definitions of institutions and who is a person associated with an institution. Queensland Cricket identified that— … the reverse onus of proof may result in an additional burden being placed on community cricket clubs … These clubs are often run on a shoestring by volunteers who have only basic administrative systems and resources. Queensland Cricket said—
Should a case be brought forward it will require significant time and resources to demonstrate the measures they have taken at their local club and is likely to be incredibly stressful for the office bearer of the day who would be expected to represent their club in a court of law.
This is a stark example of the increasing load and complexity faced by today’s volunteers and not-for-profit organisations, particularly involving interaction with children, which acts as a deterrent to volunteering in a local sporting club.
Queensland Cricket also highlighted that there could be unintended consequences leading to people being unwilling to volunteer in their community clubs. If people take on an executive position, they could be taking on all the risk for defending future claims about past incidents.
Independent Schools Queensland also raised concerns about the extensiveness of the definition of institutions and described it as ‘extremely broad’. It said that this could impact schools where activities are offered at the school or utilised school facilities but are not necessarily directly run by the school.
We are talking about activities such as holiday cooking classes, after school care et cetera.
The Queensland Catholic Education Commission submission drew attention to who will be included as a person associated with an institution. It noted—
This definition will cover all individuals engaging in activities in a school, whether paid or unpaid and whether employed by a CSAs or not.
It pointed out that students’ education is enhanced by the involvement of volunteers, parents, carers and community members. They are encouraged to be involved in individual student activities and broader school activities as well as sometimes sharing their knowledge and experiences. The QCEC said—
It would be an unfortunate outcome of the proposed legislation if this important aspect of school life was diminished due to liability and insurance concerns.
These reforms are supposed to deliver national uniformity. This bill does not. Queensland will have a different framework from other states which have followed the royal commission’s recommendations. The government has cherrypicked the recommendations to suit itself. The government has effectively ignored the extensive research and input of stakeholders. It has ignored the justification of experts. It has ignored recommendations which would see certain institutions strictly liable for the criminal acts committed by those associated with the institution.
We have to ask ourselves: why is this government not listening to the commission? Going it alone could mean that ultimately the victims of systemic sexual and physical abuse will suffer the consequences. In the interests of national uniformity I urge the government to support the LNP amendments. I do not oppose the bill.