Seizing the previously untouchable superannuation assets of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse has become an election issue, according to victim support groups, and a leading lawyer representing victims.
Currently, superannuation assets cannot be accessed as compensation by victims of abuse because of a loophole in bankruptcy laws.
In 2018 a campaign spearheaded by the victim-survivors of Maurice Van Ryn saw the federal government promise at a press conference to change the laws and close the loophole that allows convicted predators to hide their assets in superannuation, thereby preventing child abuse survivors from getting recompense through the civil courts.
Victims and their support groups applauded the changes, which will not only provide redress, but act as a deterrent for offenders.
However, despite a Treasury inquiry in 2018 and stated support from major superannuation funds, nothing has been done to close the loophole advocates said.
Head of victim-survivor advocacy group Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia (FACAA) Adam Washbourne said, currently, offenders who have substantial funds in superannuation "face no financial punishment for their crimes".
"Many sell their assets prior to imprisonment and their superannuation pool increases while in custody. They are able to then to move on with their lives and be financially secure upon release - something that their survivors are unable to do.
"Their crimes not only have a devastating impact on their survivors, but the Australian taxpayer generally foots the bill for their damage - either by way of a victims of crime compensation application, government entitlements, Medicare et cetera.
"The taxpayer should not be required to pay for their crimes".
In 2020, Andrew Carpenter from Websters Lawyers in South Australia started heavily campaigning for change after witnessing many survivors not obtaining redress due to offenders depleting their asset pool by divesting funds into their superannuation.
"This has become a common trend that is being experienced around the country and offenders are aware of this legal loophole" said Mr Carpenter.
In late 2021 Mr Carpenter teamed up with FACAA, which speaks on behalf of the victim-survivors of Maurice Van Ryn, to spearhead this campaign and put it back into the focus of law reform.
To FACAA, Mr Carpenter and the survivors of Van Ryn, this bill is a "no brainer".
"Australian taxpayers have been footing the bill for the crimes of offenders for too long," Mr Washbourne said.
"The federal government is spending more than $12billion on the National Redress Scheme for institutional abuse in addition to billions of dollars in government benefits, medical expenses and so on due to the acts of these offenders. Offenders need to be financially liable for their horrendous acts."
Mr Carpenter agreed.
"Many offenders who remain incarcerated can use their superannuation upon release to return to their lives luxuriating in their super, while their survivors generally are unemployed due to the longstanding impact these horrendous crimes have had on them.
"This change will benefit survivors, decrease the liability on the Australian taxpayer and act as a deterrent. Again, this is a 'no brainer'," Mr Carpenter said.
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