The NSW Liberal government passed a bill on May 30 that severely cuts compensation to victims of crime, domestic violence and abuse.
Under the old law, the 1996 Victims Support Rehabilitation Act, the maximum compensation to victims had been up to $50,000. The new Victims Rights and Support Bill has cut the maximum amount of compensation to $15,000 and only for victims who are financial dependents of murder victims.
Between 23,000 and 24,000 victims were waiting for a decision on compensation through the old system of reporting to the Victims of Crimes Tribunal. But the law is retroactive, so victims waiting for decisions have had their compensation slashed.
Activist lawyer Edward McMahon told Green Left Weekly: "The new bill is neither giving rights, nor supportive of victims. To fall within the highest category of compensation you now must show loss of actual earnings, so this excludes children, or women carers, Indigenous women and young people. Most people who are victims of violence fall within these categories.
"O'Farrell's bill is based on an accountant’s report put out by PricewaterhouseCoopers who recommended all references to compensation be removed. The bill has nothing to do with caring for victims, and is all about cost-cutting."
Another draconian measure introduced was that an application must be made within 10 years of the act or, if the victim was a child when it occurred, within 10 years after they turn 18. This is a direct attack on child victims of sexual assault within the Catholic Church, about to be revealed in the Royal Commission.
Community Legal Centres NSW said: "The new bill imposes a 10-year time limit for claims by victims of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. This means that victims appearing before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse could be excluded from victims compensation in NSW."
The Sydney Morning Herald said on May 31: “A Queensland University of Technology study earlier this month found that only 35 per cent of victims of sexual abuse in the Christian institutions disclosed their experience within 10 years of it occurring. The Anglican Survey of Child Sexual Abuse by Clergy in Brisbane found the average delay between first abuse and complaint of 19.5 years."
The Australian Lawyers Alliance told the SMH the time limit would prevent the “vast majority” from receiving compensation.
McMahon said: "A victim I am representing was badly beaten and set on fire at a party. He has been waiting two years to get a decision about compensation. He will now fall into the lowest category of payment."
The NSW Community Legal Centres have sent a letter to the United Nations highlighting the injustice of the victims’ compensation bill, a week before the bill was passed.
Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the September federal elections, said: "This is a cruel act against the most vulnerable sections of our society. It reveals once again the inhumanity of the priorities of the Liberal government.
It wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars on subsidising private tollways and new private railway lines but won't compensate the victims of crime. This escalation of cruelty will be generalised under a possible Abbott federal government. So we must fight — at state and federal levels — to build a popular momentum against all neoliberal attacks."