7 Mar 2017

Ardern lashes govt's refusal to hold abuse inquiry

9:12 pm on 7 March 2017

Labour's new deputy leader Jacinda Ardern, has attacked the government over its refusal to hold an inquiry into claims of historical abuse of children in state care.

Jacinda Ardern

Labour's justice spokesperson and newly elected deputy leader Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Ms Ardern has accused the government of spending more on lawyers to fight the victims than it does on settling their claims.

An Official Information Act request obtained by Ms Ardern showed one lawyer for the Crown, Kristy McDonald QC, was paid $777,000 for her work on three historical abuse cases alone.

It followed news the government spent $700,000 fighting just one compensation case.

In Parliament this afternoon, Ms Ardern asked Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley if the government's treatment of state abuse survivors was good enough.

"Is she satisfied with the government's treatment of those who have been abused by the state?"

Anne Tolley

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mrs Tolley congratulated the new deputy leader on her elevation, and for her "first question to me in six months as a result".

Following that barb, Mrs Tolley answered the question.

"Of course, I am not satisfied with the government's treatment of those who have been abused by the state, any kind of abuse in state care is absolutely abhorrent.

"That is why this government extended the previous Labour government's Confidential Listening and Advice Service for seven years, and have focused on settling claims with victims directly and personally wherever possible."

Ms Ardern, who is also Labour's justice spokesperson, then asked Mrs Tolley why so much was being spent on lawyers.

"Why is she willing to spend millions of dollars fighting historic abuse claims but won't act on the call for a state inquiry into abuse to ensure it never happens again?"

The minister responded that "there is a requirement and the Crown does have a responsibility to protect the taxpayers' interest where there are significant and complex claims or matters which will have considerable impact on future taxpayers".

The government is refusing to hold the inquiry into historical abuse, with Prime Minister Bill English questioning whether an inquiry would achieve anything.

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