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Government cuts millions from royal commission into child sex abuse.

The stories to come out of the royal commission have been scary and shameful.

The stories to come out of the royal commission into child sex abuse so far have been both scary and shameful.

They have made it clear that something in the way society, institutions and individuals in this country have dealt with claims of child sexual abuse in the past – and continue to do so – needs to dramatically change.

This change is something that our society needs to support. That our Government needs to support.

And yet, today we have learned that the Federal Government has diverted $7 million in funding from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, to the inquiry into the previous Government’s home insulation program.

Senator George Brandis.

Back in February, Attorney General Senator Brandis said that it was his understanding that ”no money has been taken away from anywhere else” for the second inquiry into the home insulation program.

The $19 million cost of the inquiry, is being shared by the environment department, the industry department and the Senator Brandis’ Attorney-General’s department.

But Senator Brandis was wrong. And wrong about his own department’s spending.

It has since been revealed that $4 million of funding from the Attorney-General’s budget was redirected from savings outlined in the budget from the royal commission into child sex abuse – while another $2.7 million was redirected because it was “not required in 2013-14 for financial assistance for legal costs and related expenses for witnesses to the RCIRCSA”.

In other words, the call was made that some witnesses did not require legal assistance during the inquiry.

The Labor Opposition is now demanding an explanation as to why the Abbott Government has moved almost $7 million dollars from the Royal Commission into child sex abuse – set up by the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November 2012 – into an inquiry into Labor’s pink batts scheme.

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So far former Ministers Mark Arbib, Greg Combet, Peter Garrett and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have appeared before the insulation inquiry, which is investigating how the scheme led to four deaths.

Mark Dreyfus.

Mark Dreyfus, the Labor party’s spokesman on legal issues, told Fairfax that ”Senator Brandis needs to explain when the decision to divert this funding was made and why he has been hiding that decision from Australians.”

A spokesman for Senator Brandis told Fairfax in response that, ”No allocation of funds has been made which would have the effect of limiting resources available to the royal commission into child sex abuse.”

The question is: Is it appropriate to cut funding from the inquiry into child sex abuse? How was it decided that some witnesses did not require legal assistance during the inquiry? And is that a sensible decision given the complicated nature of the law, and what is at stake? Moreover, given the money has been diverted into an inquiry likely to damage the reputation of the previous Labor Governments, was this politically motivated?

These are all valid questions. But more than anything else, it would be deplorable to discover that support for the royal commission into child sex abuse – an inquiry that had bi-partisan support when it was established – is wavering. The commission was established to investigate what has been happening in Australia for decades – but child sex abuse is still an ongoing issue.

We all know this. We see stories about it every day. And we need to know how to address this.

We need justice for those who have already suffered at the hands of abusers.

And we need to figure out how to make sure these kinds of institutional abuses and cover-ups never occur again.

What do you think about the news that funds are being diverted from the royal commission into child sex abuse? 

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