Extract from NSW Legislative Council Hansard and Papers Wednesday 29 May 2013.
The Hon. PAUL GREEN [10.27 p.m.]: I speak on the Victims Rights and Support Bill 2013. In essence, this bill establishes a new Victims Support Scheme to replace the existing Victims Compensation Scheme, and provides for a Commissioner of Victims Rights. Specifically, the objects of this bill are as follows:
(a) to repeal the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996 (the VSRA) and to replace the statutory scheme for compensation for victims of crimes of violence and approved counselling under that Act with a new support scheme (the new Scheme) that:
(i) provides for the approval of the giving of financial support and counselling and making of payments in recognition of the trauma suffered by certain such victims (recognition payments), and
(ii) provides for the Victims Compensation Tribunal to be abolished and its members to become a new Victims Support Division of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, which is to have the power to review determinations relating to the approval of the making of recognition payments, and
(iii) provides for the cost of support paid under the new scheme to be recovered from persons found guilty of the crimes giving rise to the approval of the giving of support, and
(iv) imposes a levy on persons found guilty of crimes punishable by imprisonment for the purpose of partially funding the new scheme that is similar to the levy that currently funds the statutory scheme for compensation under the VSRA, and
(v) continues the alternative scheme established under the VSRA under which a court may order the person it finds guilty of a crime to pay compensation to any victim of the crime.
(b) to repeal and re-enact (with minor modifications) the provisions of the Victims Rights Act 1996,
(c) to provide for a Commissioner of Victims Rights and confer on the Commissioner functions similar to those currently exercised by Victims Services under the VSRA and additional functions intended (among other things) to lead to greater compliance with the Charter of Victims Rights.
The Christian Democratic Party understands that the State Government must address the significant debt it inherited from the previous Government. The demand upon the Victims Compensation Scheme has grown exponentially in the past few years—by 83 per cent between 2005 and 2009-10—and has led to massive cost blowouts and protracted delays for claimants, who now wait an average of 30 months to receive a compensation payment. A review conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers last year found that the estimated contingent liability of the Victims Compensation Scheme was $392 million as at 30 June 2012 and it was projected to increase by $38 million each year. Significantly, the escalating waiting times between lodgement and determination of claims were undermining the objective of the Victims Compensation Scheme, that is, to facilitate the recovery and rehabilitation of victims. PricewaterhouseCoopers recommended that the Victims Compensation Scheme be replaced by a new scheme that would provide victims with up-front practical and financial support and longer term financial assistance rather than a compensation payment for injuries received as a result of violent crime.
The Christian Democratic Party understands that the Victims Rights and Support Bill will establish a new Victims Support Scheme to replace the Victims Compensation Scheme, funded at the existing level based on the models recommended by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Victims Support Scheme will provide a variety of support measures including up to 22 hours of counselling, which can be increased where appropriate; a tailored package of support of up to $5,000 to meet a victim’s urgent and immediate needs, including emergency medical and dental treatment; home security measures or relocation costs from situations of continuing or potential violence; and crime scene clean-up.
The Christian Democratic Party notes that funeral costs of up to $8,000 will be available for family members. Families of homicide victims would like that figure increased. The Christian Democratic Party encourages the Government to ensure that the funeral costs of homicide victims are appropriately met so as not to leave parents or relatives, who are experiencing a dire time in their lives, in a situation where they have to worry about the cost of a funeral. Financial assistance of up to $30,000 is available for long-term expenses, including ongoing medical and dental costs, costs associated with criminal or coronial