Interview with Simon Lauder, ABC South East

Share
Transcripts

SIMON LAUDER:

If the perpetrator of a heinous crime claims to be broke, too broke to compensate victims, but has a lot of money locked away in superannuation, should victims of crime be able to access it? Bega paedophile Maurice Van Ryn has nine victims who need ongoing access to specialist support but it looks likely Van Ryn will cry poor. Families of the victims are lobbying the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, for a change to Commonwealth laws, which means that at the moment superannuation is quarantined. Kelly O’Dwyer, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, good morning.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good morning.

SIMON LAUDER:

Now, it looks likely that Van Ryn is going to make his victims fight for compensation. It is estimated that he has as much as $9 million locked up in super funds. Is this an issue that worries you?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Firstly can I say that clearly the terrible crimes that have occurred that have affected so many victims and their families in the local community is just truly horrific and my heart absolutely goes out to all of them. Your point about should people able to preserve their superannuation and deny access to victims of crime I think is actually a very good one. We have a system at the moment that doesn’t allow access to someone’s superannuation assets under the existing law but I’m about to embark upon a review process as to how people can in fact access superannuation early and separately to that, whether people who are victims of crime, whether they ought to be able to access someone’s superannuation.

SIMON LAUDER:

OK so will that consider whether essentially the Commonwealth will be able to force perpetrators to draw down on their super to compensate victims?

KELLY O’DWYER:

It absolutely will look at whether or not superannuation ought to remain protected in certain circumstances and we already know that in certain circumstances where there are bankruptcies, where there are divorce proceedings, somebody can’t deny access to their superannuation and the Commonwealth is very open to changing the law in this regard so we will go out for comment. We will open this review, we will ask people to provide information in relation to it and then we will look to make changes early in the new year.

SIMON LAUDER:

And obviously the outcome of that review, we won’t know what the outcome of that review is for a while, but are you personally inclined to push for this at the government level?

KELLY O’DWYER:

As I’ve said publicly on a number of occasions, I don’t see why someone should be able to protect their assets through superannuation in circumstances where a victim would otherwise be granted access to those assets. So I don’t see why it would be a special case in relation to superannuation when a victim would be able to get access to those assets in ordinary circumstances. I myself am very sympathetic to a change, which is why I’m actually embarking upon this review and there will be a very clear end point to this. I’m keen for feedback but we’re also keen to get on with it and we’ll be doing that in the first half of next year.

SIMON LAUDER:

And obviously there would have to be some rules set as to if this does go ahead, what type of crimes, what type of criminals it applies to. What’s your view on that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

And this is where the review is important because clearly we’re talking about a situation where very, very serious crimes have been committed and that is obviously very, very concerning. So we need to have a discussion about in what circumstances and how, and that’s why it’s appropriate for there to be a review.

SIMON LAUDER:

And if crimes are under state jurisdiction, would you require the cooperation of the states under COAG do you think?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We’ll look at the law that we impact at the moment and if there is any need to look at state laws as well, obviously that will form part of the review and obviously we do have regular meetings with our state counterparts and COAG is the opportunity through that dialogue to be able to push for change in other jurisdictions as well. But I think first and foremost, the Commonwealth will look at our laws and the laws as to whether they’re still appropriate and whether they require change and I think it’s fairly clear that there is change required. It will be a matter as to the scope of that change and that’s clearly something that we’re interested in investigating more thoroughly during the review process.

SIMON LAUDER:

It’s 9.12am, I’m speaking with the Federal Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer. Kelly O’Dwyer obviously the families of Maurice Van Ryn’s victims have made a strong case saying that at the moment, he’s able to protect his fortune while leaving his victims to suffer further without compensation. Inevitably if this change does get pushed, there will be the counterargument that it would impact the families and children, the innocent families and children of the prisoners.

KELLY O’DWYER:

So again, this is why you shouldn’t ever have a kneejerk reaction to these sorts of issues. You need to properly and thoroughly investigate it. That’s why we’re talking about in what circumstances you might do that. But can I say this – as a matter of principle, I think it’s very clear that if victims would ordinarily be able to access the assets of an individual who had committed serious crimes, there is no logical reason to my mind as to why superannuation, if the assets were in superannuation, why superannuation would be protected and why victims wouldn’t be able to access that. Just as a matter of principle. I think it’s a matter now of looking at our laws, whether they’re still fit for purpose, whether change needs to happen and if so, exactly what that change needs to be, and then to bring it into effect in the first half of next year.

SIMON LAUDER:

And obviously as you’ve indicated, there will be a review to perhaps look into some of these questions. But are there questions over whether this would withstand a legal challenge – confiscating property or superannuation, which is not directly connected to a crime?

KELLY O’DWYER:

So currently victims under the current law can access someone’s assets in relation to compensation arrangements where they would otherwise be able to access somebody’s assets that sat outside of superannuation. Why would you inhibit their ability to access those assets that are currently within superannuation just as a matter of principle?

SIMON LAUDER:

Kelly O’Dwyer, thank you very much for telling us the movements that are happening on this issue. I’d like to ask you about the dual citizenship saga as well. I know we’re all sick of talking about it in some regard but the consequences are looking pretty serious with the prospects being raised of several by-elections and some people even suggesting that could lead to an early election. Where’s it all heading? What’s happening?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think the Prime Minister’s made it very clear that there needs to be clear disclosure from every Senator and every member as to whether or not they are compliant with our Constitution. That is a requirement for anyone who sits in the parliament that they are compliant with our Constitution. Section 44 of our Constitution makes it clear that you can’t be a citizen of another country. So we are going through a process, with the permission of the parliament, going through a process where the Prime Minister has said that we need to have a register where members declare what their circumstances are and can confirm that they are in fact compliant. This will mean that everyone can be confident going forward that everyone who sits in the Senate or the House has an entitlement to sit there beyond simply having been voted in, but is actually compliant with the Constitution.

SIMON LAUDER:

With no agreement on that system at the moment though, the Prime Minister is now talking about [inaudible], see which party has the most MPs left standing.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well no, I think there has obviously been a lot of commentary on this issue and some of the commentary has been pretty colourful, but I don’t think that’s what the Prime Minister has said at all. He said that in circumstances where someone should be referred they ought to be referred. There is an obligation to do that and every Senator and every member is responsible for making sure that they themselves are compliant under our Constitution and that they can provide the requisite information to the parliament so that the parliament can be confident of that as well.

SIMON LAUDER:

Kelly O’Dwyer, great to talk to you this morning, thank you very much.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great pleasure.