VICTIMS of sexual abuse could be denied compassion and sensitivity in the passing of new laws related to a religious organisation, Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight said yesterday.
Just days before the closing of submissions for a parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse by clergy and other non-government organisations, Ms Knight said legislation on governance arrangements for the Free Presbyterian Church should be deferred indefinitely.
Along with Oakleigh MP Ann Barker, Ms Knight said it was not appropriate for any bill dealing with management of church property and finances to be considered before the committee’s findings were announced.
With similar legal structures in place for other religious organisations including the Catholic Church, both MPs said changes shouldn’t be made before the inquiry report is issued in April.
Baillieu Government MPs used their majority in the Legislative Assembly to pass the bill last week and it will now be considered by the upper house.
“I represent a community that has been shattered by a level of trauma that is almost incomprehensible,” Ms Knight said.
“I would suggest that one of the reasons the inquiry is being held is to ensure that past practices that enabled the continuation of abuse of children within a hierarchy of unquestioned power do not ever happen again.”
Public submissions to the inquiry close on Friday, with evidence relating to decades of abuse in the Ballarat region expected to be heard.
Ms Knight said some victims might have difficulty understanding the difference between religious institutes.
A government spokesperson declined to comment yesterday.
Organiser of a Ballarat group of victims and families, Peter Blenkiron, said now was the time for the truth about sexual abuse to come to light.
“Let them gather all of the information before they make changes to other laws,” he said.
Mr Blenkiron said victims struggling to overcome needed to know parliamentarians were making decisions with their best interest in mind.