16 Jul 2018
Swan Hill Guardian, Swan Hill
By Caitlin Mcarthur
MEMBER for Murray Plains Peter Walsh says child safety should take precedence over the seal of confession.
The Victorian Nationals leader told The Guardian he urged the federal government to respond to calls priests be required to disclose admissions of child sexual abuse made during confession.
Mr Walsh said while he felt this was an area which required federal leadership, child safety was paramount.
"I think that is a challenging one for government and for the churches, but I think ultimately the safety of children should take precedence," Mr Walsh said.
The comments follow the release of the state government's response to the final report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse late last week. In its response the state government accepted 293 of the total 409 recommendations made across the four reports to come out of the inquiry and will consider a further 24.
Ninety-two recommendations were deemed inapplicable to the Victorian Government. While Victoria was one of the first states to opt into the National Redress Scheme earlier this year in response to key recommendations from the inquiry and the Betrayal of Trust report, the government has stopped short of abolishing the seal of confession for any disclosures of child sexual abuse. In an interview on ABC Radio, Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the recommendation required a "degree of national agreement."
Mr Walsh said he agreed with this assessment and he didn't believe it was the state's area to legislate.
"I think those sorts of things should be dealt with on a national level so that we have consistency across the states," he said.
Asked if he believed the federal government should enforce the recommendation, Mr Walsh said it was an "issue for the Commonwealth to respond to."
"But, I would urge them to do that sooner rather than later because, as I said, the safety of children is the absolute priority," he said.
Mr Walsh said he supported the comments made by fellow coalition MP and chair of the royal commission, Georgie Crozier, praising the Labor Government's approach and thanking the survivors who gave their testimony during the inquiry.
"Without them showing the courage they did in doing that there wouldn't have been such an extensive report and the processes to put in place so children who deal with institutions are protected in the future," he said.
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