PM on defensive after minister admits not reading interim abuse report

The Prime Minister is defending the government’s attitude towards survivors of abuse, as it emerges one of his ministers did not read a report into the abuse of a group of survivors he met.

Christopher Luxon fronted media in Ashburton on Friday, where he conceded he had not yet read the final report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State and Faith-based Care.

In his defence, Luxon only received that report last week.

The same cannot be said of Doocey, who was late last year sent a copy of the Royal Commission’s interim report into the systemic abuse of the Brothers of St John of God in Christchurch from the 1950s until the 1990s.

The report, titled Stolen Lives, Marked Souls, was released publicly in August last year.

RNZ has learned Doocey, one of the ministers with responsibility for assessing the Royal Commission’s recommendations, was then sent the report personally in November.

However, at a meeting with survivors of the Catholic order in May this year, he admitted he had not read it.

Doocey who is the Minister of Mental Health and an Associate Minister of Health is yet to respond to RNZ’s request for comment.

When questioned yesterday about his Minister’s failure to read the report before meeting with the abuse survivors, Luxon labelled it “an unfair question”.

“Our government takes this abuse very, very seriously. It’s [the Royal Commission’s final report] been six years in the making – 3000 people have told their stories. We received the report, as I said, at the end of June and we are digesting that report and we will have more to say about it very shortly, but we take it very, very seriously.

“We did in opposition and we do continue in government. So, let’s be clear, we are going to have a lot more to say about it. What happened was utterly unacceptable.”

The government “owe it to people to read that report properly, to understand and to be able to communicate effectively about what we’re going to do about it”, Luxon said.

When pressed about whether he would have expected his Minister to read the interim report before meeting with the survivors it detailed – considering the report was publicly available nine months before the meeting – Luxon said he did not know the circumstances of the matter.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard about it. So I’m happy to go back and look into it. But again, I just say to you, our government takes this [Royal Commission] very, very seriously and we are going to have more to say about it.”

Luxon also committed to reading every word of the final report of the Royal Commission.

“It’s a big document, it’s about four kilograms from memory. I want to read it personally myself from cover to cover.

“I think it’s important and we will have a proper response and a considered response and it deserves a considered response because . . . 3000 people have told their stories over six years and it’s important that it’s respected and that we then properly deal with the issue.”

RNZ has learned Doocey met with the survivors for several hours, but left some disappointed when he admitted he had not read the report into their abuse.

The Royal Commission’s final report will be tabled in Parliament on 24 July.

A group of nine Ministers – including Doocey – were working through recommendations related to an independent redress scheme for survivors.

Where to get help:

Sexual Violence

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 – push 0 at the menu

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) 022 344 0496

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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