VMIA and Federal Government must be held to account for failing abuse survivors

18 May 2018
Lawyers have today blasted a decision from one Victoria’s biggest public insurers to not fund redress scheme payments, saying insurers must meet their responsibilities to abuse survivors and that the decision again demonstrated the Federal Government’s failure to deliver a fair and robust redress scheme.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal Michelle James said all insurers, whether they were public or private, had a responsibility to meet their obligations to abuse survivors – something the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA) was failing to do in not covering redress payments.

“This is a lousy decision today from the VMIA,” Ms James said.

“Australians are sick and tired of insurers not doing the right thing in stepping up to their responsibilities and it is particularly galling to see this now also extend to abuse survivors through the national redress scheme.

“The Federal Government’s appalling handling of the national redress scheme means that survivors already stand to gain inadequate payments well below what was recommended by the Royal Commission, yet it seems the VMIA are refusing to pay even that – despite collecting premiums for decades.

“The VMIA must be held to account for this decision and importantly in sending a strong message to other insurers that taking such a narrow interpretation of their obligation to make redress payments to survivors is completely unacceptable.

Ms James said the Federal Government must also take responsibility for delivering a national redress scheme that failed the needs of abuse survivors.

“The Royal Commission recommended the national redress scheme as a scheme of last resort, something the Federal Government also committed to, yet what we are continuing to see as the scheme progresses is everyone quietly backing out of the room rather than stepping up for survivors,” Ms James said.

“The Federal Government only recently presented its latest version of the proposed national redress scheme to the Parliament and again it falls woefully short, including ignoring the recommendations of their own Senate committee on key improvements to the scheme.

“The Government have been told repeatedly that the scheme they are proposing is inconsistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on crucial elements including redress payments – the Royal Commission recommended $200,000 capped payments but the Government’s scheme only proposes $150,000.

“Each time the Federal Government presents its latest iteration of the proposed national redress scheme, we see the scheme go further backwards in delivering for survivors.

“The scheme is also now well past deadline for its delivery – the Royal Commission initially recommended a national redress scheme in 2015 to be implemented by 1 July 2017.

“The Federal Government instead committed to a 1 July 2018 implementation, but even that extended timeline is looking increasingly unlikely given a bill is still yet to pass the Parliament.

“The Government owe it to survivors to get this scheme right, but they continue to show they’re either not listening or refusing to act and survivors deserve much better,” she said.

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