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Legislation to protect sex offenders should be withdrawn…

The Rockliff Government should consider withdrawing proposed legislation that would make it a prison offence to ‘incite animosity’ toward convicted sex offenders, according to Independent Bass MP Lara Alexander.

Mrs Alexander said that while the legislation, which was released last week for public comment, may have merit when taken as a whole, the sections dealing with protecting sex offenders were a slap in the face for victim-survivors still coming to terms with the Rockliff Government’s poor response to the recently completed Commission of Inquiry (COI).

“I don’t think there is any doubt that the Government’s response to the COI has been ham-fisted, at best,” Mrs Alexander said.

“Whether it is the case or not, the Government’s response has given rise to the perception that it is more interested in protecting public servants from the consequences of the inquiry than it is in protecting Tasmanian children.

“Having failed to reassure victims and the wider public that it was committed to holding all offenders to account, it now releases for comment legislation headlined by an intention to jail people who are, basically, angry at – and possibly the victim of – convicted sex-offenders.”

Mrs Alexander said that the public was right to question the Rockliff Government’s commitment to implementing all of the COI recommendations, given that both the Premier and his senior bureaucrat – Head of State Service and Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Ms Jenny Gale – were deemed by parliament in December to have potentially failed to provide all relevant information as requested by a COI Scrutiny Committee.

Coming on top of revelations that the Rockliff Government had spent $1.6 million on legal costs for public servants who had come to the attention of the COI, and the repeated refusal of Education Minister Roger Jaensch to disclose the most up to date numbers of Education Department employees currently suspended and under investigation for possible child sex offences, Mrs Alexander said it was inevitable that people would begin to lose faith in the Government.

She said the feedback she had received from the public was that people were coming to believe more and more that the Government was placing a higher priority on protecting the public servants than on ensuring justice for victims of child sexual abuse.

“The Premier has said repeatedly that no stone will be left unturned, but it seems that there are plenty of stones sitting on top of current or former members of the public service, that are very deliberately being left unturned,” she said.

“While I’m sure the Premier has the best of intentions, he is putting responsibility for instigating a massive culture change in the public service in the hands of senior bureaucrats, who were content to work for many years within a culture that allowed abuse to happen.

“Before Parliament resumes in March, I would hope that the Premier will reflect on who deserves his loyalty more: bureaucrats looking to protect themselves, or the people of Tasmania looking to their Premier to protect their children.

“In the meantime, I urge him to ask the Premier to instruct the relevant Minister to withdraw this legislation, which seems more intent on protecting the feelings of convicted sex offenders than it does in providing comfort and justice to victims.”

Monday 8th of January, 2024.

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