Justice Miscellaneous (Commissions of Inquiry) Bill 2021 Introduced to TAS Parliament

Thursday 18 March 2021 @ 3.26 p.m. | Crime | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

On 16 March 2021, the Justice Miscellaneous (Commissions of Inquiry) Bill 2021 (the “Bill”) was introduced to Tasmania’s House of Assembly by Elise Archer, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. The Bill passed through the Assembly on 18 March 2021.

The Bill seeks to ensure that Commissions of Inquiry in Tasmania are fully supported to undertake their operations.

The Bill proposes amendments to the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997; the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995; the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2002; and the Youth Justice Act 1997.

In a media release, Ms Archer said that:

“… these amendments will further strengthen our Commissions of Inquiry Act and will make our Act one of the strongest in Australia, and will implement changes identified by the 2003 Tasmanian Law Reform Institute report as well as work done by the Australian Law Reform Commission”.

Brief Overview of the Amendments

The Bill proposes to amend the following Tasmanian legislation.

  • Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995 – extensive amendments are proposed to this Act, with the main object being to clarify the Governor’s power to amend or vary the matters which the Commission is directed to examine, including the power to appoint additional Commissioners to an established Commission of Inquiry;
  • Public Interest Disclosures Act 2002 - is amended [namely section 23 and section 41] to enable the Ombudsman to refer a matter for investigation by a Commission of Inquiry;
  • Children, Young Person and Their Families Act 1997 and the Youth Justice Act 1997 - are to be amended to provide exemptions to the confidentiality provisions to permit the disclosure and use of information. These exemptions to the confidentiality provisions enable the use of otherwise protected information to and by the person to whom the information relates.

Current Inquiry

SA Attorney-General Elise Archer announced in a Media Release dated 16 March 2021, the signing of an Order [made under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995] to formally establish a Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings (the “Inquiry”).

According to the media release, the Order formally established the Hon Marcia Neave AO as President of the Commission, and appointed two other Commissioners to assist her with the Inquiry, namely Professor Leah Bromfield and former Family Court Justice, the Hon Robert Benjamin AM.

As outlined on the Tasmanian Government Department of Justice website, the focus of the Commission will be on investigating the State Government’s responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, and include:

  • responses by the Department of Education to allegations of child sexual abuse in Tasmanian government schools;
  • responses by the Tasmanian Health Service and the Department of Health to allegations of child sexual abuse;
  • responses by the Department of Communities to allegations of child sexual abuse at Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

The Commission is expecting to hear from people who have been directly and indirectly affected by child sexual abuse and the work of the Commission will complement the findings and recommendations of the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

A final report with recommendations is due no later than 31 August 2022.

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Justice Miscellaneous (Commissions of Inquiry) Bill 2021 (Tas) - Bill and supporting information available from TimeBase LawOne Service

Media Release: Commission of Inquiry formally established (Elise Archer, Attorney-General, 16 March 2021)

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