Sydney Times

City Of Sydney -Media Releases NSW Opposition NSW State News STATE POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT






SUBJECTS: Support for victim survivors of road crime; taxi compensation; land tax; Barangaroo; gambling advertising; UN prison inspections.
CHRIS MINNS, NSW LABOR LEADER: It’s Chris Minns, NSW Labor Leader. I am with Michael Daley, the Shadow Attorney General, as well as Hayley Foster from the Full Stop Australia CEO and Tom Daher from the Road Trauma Support Group in NSW and other members of the Road Trauma Support Group are here with us this afternoon to speak about a forum that we had earlier today in the NSW Parliament which was about ensuring that we listen to the victims of crime in NSW, that we understand the issues that they’re going through, their families are going through, that they’re personally going through, and look at ways of improving the system listening to the sector, making changes and ensuring that government or opposition or any political leader in NSW doesn’t shut off their ears and stop listening to these people who need help and need support. One of the points I made in the forum earlier today is that it’s often traumatic to relive experiences that are so personally horrible for individuals and in many cases, the people behind me have gone to political leaders and the media, often to perfect strangers to recount what has been the worst moment of their lives. But they do it because they’re so interested and committed to public service and they believe that by sharing their story, with people like me and Michael and the political leadership of NSW, we can get change. So I thank them for doing that. It can’t be easy. It’s obviously a difficult day and set of circumstances for them, but we are with them.

And in that vein, we’ve made two announcements this morning, which I think goes some of the way to making sure that we rebalance the work of government in support of victims and the environment and circumstances that they find themselves in. Firstly, we will appoint an independent victim’s commissioner. At the moment the Victim’s Commissioner, which was a laudable scheme, announced by the NSW Government in 2013 is not independent. In fact, it is the Victim Services Director in the Department of Justice and Communities. I’m not at all criticising the work of that person, but as a result of the fact that they’ve got administrative responsibility for distributing finance to victims and victim support groups, they’re not independent. And victims groups have told us repeatedly, they want an independent commissioner that is unambiguously on their side. We will deliver on that approach in government if we’re lucky to win in March next year. We urge the NSW Government to make this a bipartisan approach across the political divide. The second announcement we’re going to make today is to extend the victim support services to the families of victims killed by a road crime. And I use those words very specifically – a road crime. There are many incidents in NSW where a family’s life has been destroyed as a result of a criminal action from someone in NSW. At the moment, victims’ families are not entitled to counselling as a result, from the NSW government. We need to change that. Counselling can be provided upon the period when an individual is convicted of an offence. But as you know, it’s often too late at that moment and we want to make sure that in the first instance, straight away, victims of crime on the road can access emergency care and counselling from the NSW Government. We anticipate there’ll be an additional 200 to 300 people that will access this fund every single year. So there’s an absolute need, and this is what victims and survivors are telling us. We’re listening. We want to act and we want change.

MICHAEL DALEY, NSW SHADOW ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, thank you very much, Chris. And first I’d like to thank the people standing behind us today and the groups that they represent. Thank them firstly for talking to us today, for sharing their stories, for helping to educate us up, the prospective government on what we might do to help these people and help their groups so that they can go and help other people. Their stories are incredibly valuable. I know that they take therapeutic value from telling their stories, but I also think that sometimes when they’re asked to retell them again, it does hurt, so we thank them for that today. Unfortunately, we do live in a society where there are victims of criminal acts. And the victims and their families, they want a few things. They want a system that works for them. And at the moment the system is not working for them in so many ways. And they want a government that empathises with them, that understands them. And at the moment, they’ve got a government that in many respects won’t even talk to them. These groups wrote an open letter to Mark Speakman in November of last year, they’ve informed me that they haven’t even got a reply. We were really privileged and glad to sit and listen to them today. One of the things that they’ve told us is that counselling services are all important. And I think this government looks at counselling services as a cost. But we heard today from a woman called Patricia who told us what happened to her family after they were impacted by a criminal act on a road. Brothers and sisters who delved into alcohol and drugs, who went on a life of crime, who ended up in jail. Counselling helps people not get to that point. So we’re really proud of this announcement today. At the moment, if your loved one is killed in a motor vehicle crash, unless the system deems that that car was used as a deadly weapon, and the driver is charged with homicide – two limbs that don’t apply to victims of violent crime generally – they’re completely cut out of the victim support network. Full stop. We’re letting them back into the network. And we hope we can get elected in March to do some good in this space because there’s so much good to be done.

MINNS: And Hayley Foster to speakfrom Full Stop Australia.

HAYLEY FOSTER, FULL STOP AUSTRALIA: Thank you so much. I just want to mark today and the huge commitment and what this means for victims in NSW. There has been a reckoning for decades and decades, victims have felt in this state unheard, dismissed, and re-traumatised by our systems. Really, really pleased today to hear from the Opposition Leader and the opposition government that we will if they’re elected have an independent Victims Rights Commissioner. That is absolutely essential to make sure that victims are heard when they are encountering a lack of justice or a lack of support, and that the service systems themselves aren’t re-traumatising them. We’re absolutely thrilled at this commitment and what it will mean for victims of crime in NSW and we look forward to working with the government on this. The other thing I wanted to mention is, and again, what the Shadow Attorney General just spoke about just then, about counselling, and about support. If you’ve been impacted by sexual or domestic or family violence or indeed a motor vehicle incident that has resulted in the death of a loved one, you don’t require just support in that moment. You require long lasting, lifelong support. That has not been acknowledged to date. And I’m really pleased that the NSW Opposition has also committed to funding the NSW Sexual Violence Helpline to make sure that we can pick up the calls of people when they need us most. I’m also pleased to hear the commitments from the Opposition that they will make sure that across the state that people can access the support they need to heal and recover from the terrible crimes that have happened. So thank you.

MINNS: And Tom Daher from the Road Trauma Support Group.

TOM DAHER, ROAD TRAUMA SUPPORT GROUP NSW: We welcome these announcements today. An independent commissioner is extremely important for victims of road crime that have lost the loved one due to a criminal act. It gives us another voice, someone that we can turn to for assistance, someone who was independent. It’s a voice that we did not have. Victims of road crime have been neglected for way too long. And an independent commissioner is someone that we can turn to and to get assistance for matters that relate to our case.

Not only does it provide us with a voice, it also opens the door for victims of road crime that resulted in a death to be included in the Charter of Victims Rights. At the moment we are not. At the moment, road crimes are not looked at as serious as someone that is charged with murder or manslaughter. We say that is incorrect, losing a loved one – killed by a motor vehicle driven by a driver affected by drugs or alcohol or driving in a dangerous manner that results in the death of our loved one should be no different to someone who was murdered whether they use a weapon, a knife, their fists, or a vehicle.

So, we welcome this announcement. And we look forward to us being included in the Charter of Victims Rights, exactly the same way as any other victim should be. We also welcome the announcement that extended counselling services are available for victims of road trauma. That is extremely important. At the moment, we need to wait for counselling to be supplied by a compulsory third party. We need counselling immediately. We need counselling for the long term. It’s not something that goes away, trauma is not something that you can put a time limit on, and we welcome this announcement. And it’s more than just counselling, it basically highlights the fact that road trauma is exactly the same experience as someone else that has been killed through another mean. Road trauma, when we lose our loved ones, is no different from manslaughter. This acknowledgement by the Labor Party will go a long way to assist in us having road crimes identified as manslaughter. And I thank Chris for his announcements today.

JOURNALIST: Just in the practical sense Chris, just give us an example of what this means in practice? What will an independent commission actually do?

MINNS: We need to have somebody in the system that is an advocate on behalf of victims, and that doesn’t just go for the distribution of funds when it comes to victim support payments, it is also support through the judicial system. And it’s also an independent advocate in the halls of Parliament saying this legislation doesn’t go far enough. This legislation, for example, unintentionally infringes upon the rights of victims.

We saw a major change in the way that victims were responded to, and acknowledged in the judicial system in the previous Labor Government. Victim impact statements were introduced for the first time in criminal proceedings in NSW, we had victim support payments that we hadn’t had before. And, there was in many cases, if you speak to victims groups, they’ll say that there was a rebalancing, and for the first time those that were survivors of severe trauma felt like they were listened to as part of the process.

We would envisage that a Victim’s Commissioner would play an active role in the media, in Parliament via parliamentary committees, acting as first and foremost an advocate on behalf of the people behind me, so that those in political leadership aren’t left in no doubt as to what needs to happen to support the victims of crime in NSW.

JOURNALIST: You said that victims are treated differently, and they are not able to access these counselling services – why are they being treated differently? Do you have an understanding of that?

MINNS: Only speaking to the families of those that have lost loved ones as a result of road crime, I mean even the semantic saying road crime is something that is often lost as part of the reporting from politicians and others in relation to the deaths on our roads.

I know in my own electorate, we lost a young boy named Patrick Wayne, who was walking his younger brother to Hurstville Public School, he was a student at Sydney Tech, across the road. He dropped his younger brother off, and a driver who was under the influence of drugs, had a suspended drivers license, and ran a red light, knocked over Patrick and killed him. The family, I don’t know if you’d ever get over that, it’s the trauma of that is severe. It is obviously a crime and as a result they need the help and support of the judicial and political system.

JOURNALIST: Chris, we’ve had some really horrific crashes on NSW roads this year, particularly the crash that took five lives in regional NSW. Our roads are in a worse situation than ever. What else are you going to do to improve regional roads?

MINNS: Obviously that is part of it, making sure that we’ve got the infrastructure in place to make a dent, year on year, on the road toll in NSW. That’s multifaceted, that goes from everything from speeding, to ensuring that we’ve got the infrastructure particularly on regional roads in country NSW. This aspect of it is in relation to ensuring that victims are heard and supported after the incidence of a road crime on a NSW road. That’s very important and that’s the message loud and clear from the people behind me – they don’t feel listened to and they suspect and they feel as though there’s a different standard applied to them.

JOURNALIST: Have these sorts of issues been raised with the government before?  Groups have gone and approached governments to have these exchanges – what responsive have they had?

MINNS: My understanding, having spoken to the Homicide Victim Support Group, the road trauma group behind me, and many other victims support groups since I became Labor Leader, and I know Michael has had many, many meetings also, is that they’re not being listened to by the NSW Government. And, in many cases that means that an inquiry could take place, a submission may be made by a domestic violence group or a homicide victim support group, but it’s not acknowledged or acted on. In many cases this is contested space, we need to make sure that we’re writing good laws without unintended consequences. But the first port of call for any government or prospective government is to listen to the people who’ve gone through this trauma. I want to make this point again, it’s not easy to relive the worst day of your life, but the people behind me do it so that they can have change in NSW and we thank them for it.

JOURNLAIST: Just on taxi drivers, they’re obviously very angry out there. What’s your response to the protests?

MINNS: They’re obviously very angry and have been concerned for years now about the level of compensation.We remain particularly concerned about the discrepancies in regional compensation to different communities across NSW. You’ve got in some instances, people receiving a payment of $25,000, in other regions, often adjacent to the $25,000 compensation payment they’ll be receiving $125,000. I know the government’s got a matrix that they insist is the reason there’s a discrepancy but we’re really concerned about that. My understanding from the NSW Government is that they’ve junked their compensation scheme and going back to the drawing board to look at further compensation for taxi drivers. Obviously, we’ll wait and see what they bring to the table, if they bring nothing to the table we’ll have more to say about our plan for taxi compensation in NSW in the coming months.

JOURNALIST: What do you think is enough obviously, there’s a lot of people out there saying that they bought their plates for $400,000 or $270,000 and they took a loan against that house, to get the $100,000 in Sydney doesn’t cut it. So what would you see as fair?

MINNS: Look, it is hard and it’s hard for the Opposition and it is hard for the government too, but they’ve had many years to start to grapple with a fair bargaining in relation to this and they’ve virtually done nothing. I remember several years ago, some of the ride sharing apps were lobbying to remove the $1.10 road transport fee, which is the revenue vehicle that will pay for compensation, and we opposed it and we opposed it precisely because the original $20,000 that was given to taxi drivers was nowhere near enough to compensate for their loss and something extra needed to be done. That’s the first point. Second point is we’ve got concerns about deregulating the taxi industry altogether. And I know that there’s a long lead in in relation to proposed changes there but many taxi owners and operators and those in the management of those fleets have spoken to the Opposition about their concern in relation to those proposed changes. And I guess the assumption from the NSW Government that in some instances a payment of $25,000 and then effectively the ending of or the deregulation of the taxi industry is enough for them is obviously laughable.

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