Two months on still no funds for inquiry
6th June 2012
Updated 6th June 2012
A PARLIAMENTARY committee told to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy is still wrangling with the Baillieu government over funding almost two months after the inquiry was announced.
The government is insisting the committee, which now has just nine months remaining to undertake its task, will get the resources it needs.
State Parliament's Family and Community Development Committee was asked in April to investigate ''the practices, policies and protocols'' of religious and ''non-government organisations'' when handling allegations of criminal abuse of children.
But almost two months later, the committee, which is conducting two other inquiries and includes four new MPs, has made little progress, with no public calls for submissions and no funding allocation to conduct its investigations, and no public hearings.
Committee members only recently returned from a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe where they visited The Hague and Britain to investigate ''opportunities for participation by Victorian seniors''. It is also racing to wrap up an inquiry into workforce participation by people with mental illnesses.
The delays follow growing concern from victims' groups that the investigation is unlikely to result in fresh prosecutions or pave the way for financial restitution, but will rather make ''broad-brush'' recommendations about how to improve processes for investigation.
The state government allocated $6.7 million for Parliament's 12 investigatory committees in 2012-13, down from $6.9 million this year, prompting claims the cuts would make the complex investigation of sexual abuse allegations next to impossible.
But Attorney-General Robert Clark's office yesterday said the government had given a ''clear commitment'' that the parliamentary inquiry would receive the appropriate level of resources required to investigate the claims of sexual abuse by members of the church and other organisations.
''In accordance with usual practice, one of the first tasks of the committee has been to make an assessment of the resources they are likely to require,'' a spokesman for Mr Clark said.
It is believed that the committee will soon formally make a request for submissions and has this week been in formal talks to determine what resources it will need, including lawyers, counsellors and administrative staff.