Deputy Premier Backs New Laws to End Confessional Protection for Paedophiles
By Lisa Visentin
Sydney Morning Herald
June 16, 2018
|NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro.|
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has declared the government has a responsibility to end the protection that the religious seal of confession affords to paedophiles.
Mr Barilaro defended the decision by the grassroots of the NSW National Party to support the introduction of new laws requiring priests to break the confessional seal and report to police admissions of child sex abuse heard during confession.
“We are custodians in parliament to make sure we put in place legislation that protects our children for the future,” Mr Barilaro said in response to a question from a grassroots member at the NSW Nationals state conference on Saturday.
“No institution or organisation should be ever exempt from taking responsibility or [permitted to hide] behind their own internal rules."
“We have an obligation to protect children and we need to do that, and no one is exempt from that,” he said.
His comments followed a vote by the party’s rank and file, calling on the NSW government to expand mandatory reporting laws to include members of the religious clergy and covering admissions disclosed during confession.
Former education minister Adrian Piccoli, who resigned from politics last year, surprised the conference when he moved an urgency motion on the issue on Friday.
Police Minister Troy Grant, a former police officer who led the investigation into Catholic paedophile priest Vincent Ryan, spoke in favour of the motion.
The motion passed easily following a brief debate, but will need to be endorsed by MPs in the National partyroom before it becomes the policy of the parliamentary party.
However, Mr Barilaro said any change to the state’s current mandatory reporting laws could be some time away, as policy positions endorsed by grassroots members could often “take a lot of time before it ever becomes policy of the government.”
“What happens from here, who knows,” he said. “The reality is we have to get the detail right before this ever becomes law.”
Ending the legal exemption for religious confession, and requiring religious minister to report child sex abuse disclosed to them, was one of the major and most controversial recommendations made by the royal commission into child sex abuse.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a suite of legal changes in April in response to the recommendations, but stopped short of acting on the confessional issue, saying the issue needed to be addressed at a national level.
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter last week expressed support for changes to the law and said the government was working with states to harmonise laws.
He said the Council of Attorneys-General - which is comprised of his state and territory counterparts - would be “largely taking the role in ensuring the recommendation is met and that the recommendation is met in a way that is consistent”.
South Australia and the ACT are the only jurisdictions to have passed legislation extending mandatory reporting laws to the confessional.
The acting Archbishop of Adelaide Greg O’Kelly on Friday said the South Australian Catholic Church would not adhere to the new laws when they come into effect in October.