It’s a rare day when I agree with Senator Eric Abetz, but his assessment of Paul Lennon’s motives in the debate surrounding compensation for victims of abuse in state care is spot-on: “[the Tasmanian Government] rushed out to the media with a fanfare saying these abuse victims were going to be compensated … because Paul Lennon wanted headlines.” [Eric Abetz, 9/3/05]

While Senator Abetz made the Federal Government’s position clear on a number
of occasions over this issue, the Tasmanian Government ignored him and repeatedly stated that it had legal advice to the contrary.

It seems the legal advice in question was a little bit wrong, as it inferred that the Tasmanian Government’s compensation payouts would not be seen as such when it came time to repay Medicare, something ALL other recipients of compensation payments are required to do.

Leading advocate for the victims, Steve Fisher, seemed to be across the legalities of this issue at the time, raising questions about the Tasmanian Government’s motives in steadfastly sticking to its legal guns for so long. I personally find it worrying that the Tasmanian Government’s legal advice on this issue came from the same person who advised them over Richard Butler’s payout, but that’s another matter.

Seeking a cheap headline

Anyway, Senator Abetz also made the strong point that the Federal Government would be obliged to pay victim’s medical expenses on behalf of companies such as James Hardie if they set a precendent by paying Tasmanian abuse victim’s medical expenses on behalf of the Tasmanian Government. Obviously this is a precedent to be avoided at all costs.

Paul Lennon is now desperately trying to focus attention on the prospective $10 billion budget surplus in Canberra, over and above his own complicity in using victims of child sex abuse in state care as pawns in his latest “nice guy” makeover attempt.

The good Senator called it “seeking a cheap headline,” and I cannot disagree. I hope the media, the people and especially the victims also see Paul Lennon’s behaviour for what it really is: shallow self service.