John Key too afraid to have Royal Commission into child abuse in NZ

9. Domestic Violence and Child Abuse—Call for Royal Commission

9. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his reported comments that the Government would need to seek advice before deciding whether a Royal Commission into domestic violence and child abuse, which Owen Glenn has offered to fund, was necessary?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : I stand by my actual response to the question, which was “We need to consider all of the issues of what might come out of the royal commission.” That is something I have not taken advice on yet.

Jan Logie: Why does the green paper not deal directly with domestic violence, given that every year police attend 73,000 domestic violence call-outs, and report that 70 percent of these cases also involve child abuse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think if the member wants a very detailed answer, she really should put the question down to the Minister for Social Development. But what I can say is that the green paper on vulnerable children actually tangentially deals with that issue, because, by definition, vulnerable children are often subject to domestic violence.

Jan Logie: How can he tell this House that the Government is serious about domestic violence, when it has recently closed the family violence unit in the Ministry of Social Development, cut funding to domestic violence education programmes, and reduced funding for the family violence sector to a state of chaos?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I reject the statements made by the member. I would not even put them as questions; I really would put them as statements. But let me just say this: in terms of the work we have undertaken in 2012 alone, the white paper on vulnerable children, which will be released later this year, has had over 10,000 submissions, which we will be looking closely at. The Health Committee has initiated an inquiry into preventing child abuse and improving children’s health outcomes. Obviously, there is the ministerial committee that is being led and co-chaired by Bill English and Tariana Turia, and there is an Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty. They are examples of just some of the background work we are doing that is informing the policies that the Government has been operating.

Jan Logie: Given all the international evidence indicates—as well as our local police statistics indicate—a direct link between domestic violence and child abuse, given the evident severity of this problem in New Zealand, which is getting worse, and given the evident poor institutional response, how can the Prime Minister not commit to support an inquiry to find a long-term, sustainable solution to domestic violence, including child abuse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think we take issue with the statement by the member that it is getting worse. The information we have is it is probably levelling off. In terms of the work the Government has been doing, there are many, many strands of that. But if the purpose of the member’s question is to ask whether the Government supports Owen Glenn using part of the very generous $80 million donation he has made to fund a royal commission of inquiry, then the answer to that is, no, we do not support that. The reason for that is that it is my own view that that is an incredibly generous act from Owen Glenn, but he would be better to spend the money on on-the-ground solutions within at-risk communities, because, frankly, this country has had a lot of inquiries over the last decade, and we need to move towards some practical solutions. He should use his money for that.

Jacinda Ardern: Does he agree, then, that the inquiry into the determinants of well-being for Māori children by the Māori Affairs Committee, the inquiry into preventing child abuse and improving children’s health outcomes by the Health Committee, the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty—the Children’s Commissioner’s expert’s group—and the green paper process on vulnerable children mean we have the evidence we need, but the issue lies in the Minister allocating in the Budget a mere $6 million to respond to all of this work?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. What I think is that there are a variety of different strands of information gathering and inquiring going on. And, frankly, having another one is probably not going to take us very far. This country has an issue when it comes to domestic violence, it has an issue when it comes to child abuse, but, actually, if Owen Glenn wants to spend $80 million—and it is an incredibly generous donation—I think if he went out to South Auckland and spent that money on the ground, in that community, he would make a bigger difference.

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