Royal commission on church abuse is not the answer: Hockey, Shorten
Coalition frontbencher Joe Hockey has argued against a royal commission on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, warning a public inquiry would further traumatise victims.
Mr Hockey was responding to calls from a senior serving NSW police officer who has alleged the church covers up for paedophile priests, hinders police investigation and destroys evidence to prevent prosecutions.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox's comments, in a letter to NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell in which he calls for a royal commission, mirror police submissions to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse in the church.
Opposition frontbencher Joe Hockey says having a public inquiry on sexual abuse in the church would further traumatise victims. Photo: Jim Rice
"Many police are frustrated by this sinister behaviour, which will continue until someone stops it," he wrote.
Interviewed on Fairfax radio this morning, Mr Hockey, a Catholic, said he understood the seriousness of the issue because he had friends who had been victims of sexual abuse. But he said a royal commission would cause further harm.
''I know victims. I have friends who have been victims. And if you ask them to give evidence before a court, they wouldn't do it. What they want to see is for it to stop and for the wounds to heal. And having a public inquiry would traumatise them.''
Mr Hockey, the shadow treasurer, said it would be ''ridiculous'' to have a royal commission into the Catholic Church, and he said the problem of sexual abuse was much broader than the church.
Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said he was not sure a royal commission was the right response.
''I have thought about this question - how do you best deal with it? I am not convinced that having a royal commission is going to fix the faults,'' he told 3AW.
Mr Shorten, who is Employment Minister, said organisations should be required to report abuses to police.
''Ultimately it's a criminal matter. We need to provide both the victims and the police with the capacity to seek their redress. And those involved in the cover-up have to be exposed.''
Mr Shorten said a priest at the church he attended as a boy, Sacred Heart in Oakleigh, had encouraged him to become an altar boy, but his mother talked him out of it. Fr Kevin O'Donnell was later jailed for sexual abuse.
''I always wondered if I didn't have a very luck escape because of the wisdom of my mother because that priest there went to jail. And he had been a shocking abuser,'' Mr Shorten said.
When asked on Friday whether Prime Minister Julia Gillard would support a royal commission, her spokesman referred the National Times to comments she made in August, in which she said she did not intend to hold a royal commission.
"I think that there are a variety of those ways people are going to get the facts here and get hopefully some sense of redress here," she told 2SM radio.
"I don't have an intention of having a royal commission... but I do believe that every individual who has something to say about what's happened to them, every individual who's suffered needs to be treated respectfully and needs to have their suffering acknowledged.''
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