It’s only taken years: Churches push for inclusion in Royal Commission into abuse

eight_col_1m1a2097Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson (left) and Cardinal John Dew from the Catholic Church.

The Anglican and Catholic churches are making their most concentrated push yet to get the Royal Commission into abuse expanded to fully include them.

Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson and Catholic Cardinal John Dew have met with the commission chair Sir Anand Satyanand.

“The Anglican Church needs to collaborate fully with the Royal Commission and we need the terms of reference to be extended in a way that allows that to be possible,” Archbishop Philip Richardson said.

“That’s the best way of addressing long-term hurt and long-term consequences.”

The Anglicans’ top General Synod committee is now also writing to the Prime Minister and the Children’s Minister calling for an expanded commission.

Some leading non-clerical Catholic voices have previously called for such an expansion – but now their top clergy are getting vocal too.

“We are saying that if they are going to move on to a stage of investigating institutions … then we would welcome having church institutions also included so that we too can learn from whatever failings might have occurred in the past,” Bishop Patrick Dunn, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said.

The inquiry’s draft terms exclude scrutiny of abuse in institutions in cases where the state had no involvement.

So the case of a child sent into church care by the state would be treated differently to a child sent to, say, a Catholic school by their parents and abused there.

The government’s made its preference clear – even down to the email address of the inquiry: royalcommission.statecare@dia.govt.nz.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, despite giving repeated interviews expressing this preference, has not said exactly why non-state agencies could not be included.

Survivors of sexual abuse by priests have been campaigning for an expansion, with some saying they would refuse to give their story to any Royal Commission that did not hold the institution to account in their case.

The Australian inquiry into child sex abuse heard 1100 complaints of abuse had been made against the Anglican Church from 1980 to 2015, and four times that against the Catholics.

“Certainly the Australian example is very salutary but we would have taken exactly the same position whether the Australian inquiry had been held or not,” Archbishop Richardson said.

As for other Christian churches, the consensus seems to be they all wanted to be scrutinised by the Royal Commission here, he said.

He was asking to meet Children’s Minister Tracey Martin, but is clearly keen to leave the government room to move.

“If the terms of reference are not extended, how can the church’s accountability be reflected? And we want to have those conversations with the [political] ministers … we’re really not sure what that might look like.”

The original whistleblower into Catholic clerical child abuse, US priest Tom Doyle, has said it would unheard of to try to have a second, separate inquiry into abuse in churches.

A Royal Commission spokesperson said Sir Anand had met the churchmen, was meeting a wide range of people and was not commenting on the content of any submissions.

She did not say if the public consultation on the draft terms of reference would be extended beyond the end of April or not.

Churches push for inclusion in Royal Commission into abuse

Religious academics KNOW they target Children with the LGBT message!

From the Church of England’s refusal to discipline William Yate when he was banished from Northland almost two centuries ago, until today, the churches have long been responsible for covering up those abusing children here in NZ. These same religious leaders are now openly targeting the sexualisation of Children into special communities with the LGBTQI++etc philosophy (that sex with anyone is ok because they claim our evolution from animals means that it’s only natural to follow our carnal instincts).

As lauded feminist lecturer Helen Bergin (Catholic Institute of Theology) claimed in her Auckland University School of Theology classes, “…life would be so boring if there were only two genders”. It was her desire that children be given opportunities at a young age to experiment sexually so they can chose their new gender. It was from these classes that Eugene Sisneros graduated while at St Matthews, only to take the Anglican Church to the Human Rights commission to normalise his behaviour as a role model for Anglican children. St Matthews recently held the thanksgiving service for the 2018 Pride Festival.

There needs to be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into NZ religious organisation’s child sexual abuse, modelled after the recent Australian one.

NZ Catholic Church still keeping issues behind closed doors

NZ Catholic Church still keeping issues behind closed doors

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Analysis – The sexual abuse of women by men in positions of power takes many guises, writes Phil Pennington.

Where it occurs in the Catholic Church, and priests are the perpetrators, Cardinal John Dew, who is also bishop of Wellington, has been uncompromising in the past in calling it out.

It was “professional misconduct by means of sexual abuse” for any priest to have a sexual relationship with a parishioner, he has said.

“It is always, in the case of a member of the clergy, his professional and pastoral responsibility to recognise the vulnerability of the person he’s ministering to and to take appropriate steps to avoid emotional, physical and sexual involvement.”

There was always a power imbalance between priests and their parishioners, and “meaningful consent” could not apply.

“It is a sad reality that there have been many instances of sexual abuse, this is always a betrayal of trust, it is always an inappropriate use of power and control that a priest …has.”

Cardinal John Dew – the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington – wrote that back in 1996 in a Church paper, following revelations that a bishop in Scotland had been living with a divorcee and had fathered a son with another woman.

His spokesperson this week told RNZ that “the Cardinal stands by his comments”.

But two decades on, Cardinal Dew is not so forthcoming on the related issue of priests who father children.

Others have spoken up, with Pope Francis saying he would be inclined to tell a priest “he must leave his priestly ministry and take care of his child”.

Support network Coping International have heard from a number of New Zealanders, including the mother of a primary school girl who says a priest is her father, a young man who took months to come forward and an older Auckland woman who a few weeks ago became the first to be acknowledged by the Bishop of Auckland as the child of a priest.

That bishop, Patrick Dunn, spoke to RNZ.

However, the overall message from his fellow bishops, via their spokesperson, is that these cases are “not a public matter”, they are “personal”, and any response from bishops is “pastoral” involving “a listening ear and heart”.

Irishman Vincent Doyle, the son-of-a-priest and founder of Coping International, wants more than sympathy from New Zealand’s Catholic leaders.

He asked the bishops to adopt principles issued in Ireland last year, that put the onus firmly on the priest to face up to being a father, and on bishops to push them to do just that.

Instead, the local bishops put out a six-line statement that does not directly mention priests at all, or what Church leaders will be telling priests.

What, for instance, are they telling them about whether they will be forced out if they admit to fathering a child? Or about their financial obligations? Or about contraception?

What duty of care to the women and their children is the Church itself taking for a relationship that Cardinal Dew has described as fundamentally abusive?

New Zealanders have been intently focused on revelations about sexual harassment at law firms. Russell McVeagh is having to submit to an external review looking not just at individual cases but its whole culture and management.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is keeping its issues in-house.

* Footnote: In a response to this piece, the bishops’ spokesperson reiterated their earlier statement and added: “With regard to a seminarian or a layperson becoming aware of a priest having fathered a child, or a cleric becoming likewise aware (outside of the sacrament of reconciliation) of such information, the response they are taught and are required to follow, in good conscience, is to notify the priest’s bishop and/or the Professional Standards office of the local church and entrust the personnel there to follow the matter up with the priest, families and authorities involved.”

Vatican will be terrified of state inquiry, whistleblower says

Vatican will be terrified of state inquiry, whistleblower says

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An international Catholic whistleblower says the Vatican will be “quaking in fear” in case the New Zealand Catholic Church is included in an inquiry into abuse.

The Government has repeatedly stated it wants to leave Churches and other non-state institutions out of the upcoming Royal Commission.

Some survivors of clerical abuse are pushing for Commission chair Sir Anand Satyanand to reverse that during the current public consultation phase.

“I do not know of an inquiry that has taken place that has limited itself in such a way,” said Father Tom Doyle, of Virginia, who’s been involved in a dozen-plus abuse inquiries around the world and across the US.

The one-time canon lawyer first blew the whistle on the global abuse scandal in 1984 and his work featured in the Academy Award-winning film Spotlight.

An inquiry that excluded the Church, except where the State sent a child into its care, would please the Vatican.

“They’d be very interested if an inquiry’s going to take place and I’m sure they would be quaking in fear that this inquiry is going to resemble what happened in Australia.”

It was likely the Vatican had told Bishops in New Zealand not to lobby the Government to be included in the inquiry, he said, despite survivors asking them to – and despite a leading layman, Bill Kilgallon, who till recently was on the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, saying the Church should be included.

“From my experience, which is very extensive, is that the Cardinal and the Bishops are probably very, very fearful of a complete inquiry taking place, because they can look 2000 miles away and see what happened in Australia, and that was the most thorough examination of sexual abuse of children in the history of the world and I was involved in it, and I’ve seen the results.”

The Communications Advisor to the New Zealand Catholic Bishops, Amanda Gregan, said she was not aware if the Vatican has told local Bishops not to lobby to be included in the Royal Commission.

The New Zealand Cardinal John Dew has not responded to RNZ’s repeated requests to publicly state whether he will ask the Government to include the Church.

Such a call coming from the Cardinal or a Bishop was very different than it coming from Mr Kilgallon, Father Doyle said.

The Children’s Minister Tracey Martin announced the Royal Commission, expected to last three years and cost at least $40 million, saying: “This is about the people, not the institutions.”

This was alarming, said Father Doyle.

“They’re bypassing the most important dimension of this whole scandal, which is the enabling that the institutions have done to enable the perpetrators, the abusers, to do what they’ve done, and the power of the institutions also to avoid any accountability.

“And so the victims are gonna say ‘what’s the use’.

“You don’t have to have a major investigation to determine the damage done to the victims, that’s already been determined, I mean we know what that is – the criminals are gonna get away with it.”

He had heard from many New Zealand survivors over the years.

“The way they had been treated by the church over there has been completely shameful, it’s extremely disturbing. There are victims who are living in hope that someday they will be vindicated. That the government, that the society will recognise and acknowledge what happened to them.”

Meantime, Australian media is reporting that the Philippines ambassador to New Zealand, Jesus ‘Gary’ Domingo has thanked Anthea Halpin, a victim of Father Denis McAlinden who abused children in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

She has gone public, using her real name, calling on the Australian Catholic Church to take responsibility for sex crimes against children in developing countries.

The Philippines owed her “a debt of gratitude for her courage”, said Mr Domingo.

Catholic church response to child sex abuse ‘criminal negligance’

Catholic church response to child sex abuse ‘criminal negligance’

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Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher appeared in front of the royal commission for the first time.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has told a royal commission the response by Catholic Church leaders to allegations of child sexual abuse amounted to “criminal negligence”.

Five of Australia’s most senior Catholic figures fronted the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on Thursday.

It was the first time the commission, which has been running for four years, has questioned Archbishop Fisher.

“It was a kind of criminal negligence to deal with some of the problems that were staring us in the face,” he told a public hearing.

The Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe, gave a damning assessment of the way allegations of sexual abuse were handled.

He said there was a “catastrophic failure” in church leadership and the abuse of children was at odds with what the Catholic Church purported to be.

“That leads me to reflect there has also been a catastrophic failure in keeping people faithful [like priests] to the commitments they made. I asked myself what can possibly have gone wrong, or what was missing, that could lead to, not just one, but countless people failing in this way,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

The archbishops were grilled about what they did to deal with those “catastrophic failures” in leadership they had agreed were at the root of the child sexual abuse.

They said they were taking a more collaborative approach to decision-making in their diocese.

“The problem will always be there to potentially rise again unless that issue is dealt with,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

He said in the past, the Holy See believed itself to be “so special, so unique and so important” that it was untouchable.

“That’s probably the way many bishops in their own dioceses might also think of themselves – as a law unto themselves, as not having to be answerable to anybody, as not having to consult with anybody as to being able to make decisions just out of their own wisdom,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“That can then trickle down to the priests in the parish. I would see that as one of the major causes of this inability to deal with this terrible crisis.”

This is the 50th public hearing of the royal commission.

The Archbishops of Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane are being probed at the hearing.

Australian abuse survivors criticise NZ inquiry

Australian abuse survivors criticise NZ inquiry

New Zealand’s plan to leave the Church and other non-state groups out of the Royal Commission of inquiry into abuse is getting some bad press in Australia today.

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The Newcastle Herald has gone big with a story of Australian survivors of abuse afraid their New Zealand counterparts won’t get justice.

Joanne McCarthy, the journalist who did in Australia what the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team did in the US to break open the clerical sex abuse scandal, has interviewed them.

The approach being taken here was “completely unacceptable”, she said.

“The terms of reference will make for different tiers of abuse survivors within the same schools or institutions – those whose abuse cases are deemed important enough to be investigated and those who are told their abuse, as children, doesn’t count because the state wasn’t involved.

“You can’t possibly do justice in that situation.”

Her years of reporting on abuse over the Tasman helped heap such pressure on Australian authorities that they eventually launched the five-year, $500 million inquiry into institutional sexual abuse that has just concluded.

More than half the sexual abuse cases heard survivors talk about involved the Church, especially the Catholic Church.

The New Zealand inquiry’s draft terms exclude any case that did not have state involvement, so ruling out survivors of abuse confined to the Church, sports clubs and the like – plus any abuse occurring after 1999.

A three-month consultation period has just begun, which will include a visit to Australia by the commission’s chair Sir Anand Satyanand in April.

Melbourne expatriate Grant West could not tell his story at the Australian inquiry, because his years of abuse in church and state-run homes happened in New Zealand.

The 56-year-old is now wavering over appearing at the New Zealand inquiry.

“Look, I can attend under the state care part, but I won’t attend on those grounds,” he said.

“This is just not on, this government has got to protect all children.”

It also needed to call non-state institutions in to be questioned, held accountable and forced to change, Mr West said.

Other survivors, both in this country and expats in Australia, Canada and Britain had told him they would boycott it too, he said.

“They want the broad spectrum of all institutions to be held [to account].”

He presented a 2700 signature petition to Parliament two years ago calling for an inquiry into child abuse, but said Labour Party politicians who backed him then were not answering his emails now.

Ms McCarthy said the current consultation period risked retraumatising survivors by putting the onus on them to provide the numbers to justify expanding the inquiry.

She pointed to the case of the New Zealand-born St John of God Brother and child rapist Bernard McGrath, to show why shared trans-tasman scrutiny was vital.

McGrath abused children in Australia and New Zealand, in state care and not in state care; the 70-year-old just last week was sentenced in Sydney to 33 years in prison.

Filipino leaders want state care inquiry to include Church

Filipino leaders want state care inquiry to include Church

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Philippine ambassador to New Zealand Gary Domingo has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asking for an expanded Royal Commission of Inquiry.

He cited the case of the paedophile priest Denis McAlinden who spent time in the Philippines and other countries as well as a year in New Zealand in the 1980s.

Ms Ardern’s office referred Mr Domingo to the Children’s Minister.

So far, the draft terms for the Royal Commission into abuse in state care does not include the Catholic Church or other faith-based organisations.

Mr Domingo said McAlinden’s case showed why it was vital to look into religious organisations.

He said there could be other priests who were sent overseas from New Zealand who abused Filipino children.

“Since there is a connection to abuse having been perpetrated in the Philippines … I have also been instructed by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to properly address the situation and support Filipino victims,” Mr Domingo wrote to the New Zealand Cardinal John Dew.

Ambassador Gary Domingo.

Philippine ambassador to New Zealand Gary Domingo wants the inquiry expanded. Photo: RNZ / Phil Pennington

Leaders in the 50,000 strong local Filipino community also wrote to Cardinal Dew, saying New Zealand should copy Australia’s wide-ranging and recently concluded inquiry into institutional child sex abuse.

“By supporting and endorsing a New Zealand Royal Commission … the Catholic Church would be free of any inference or suspicion of bias that internal investigations naturally invoke,” the leaders said.

One leader, Aucklander Sam Dignadice, said New Zealand could definitely make a difference in the Philippines if it was investigating church and state.

This was in part due to the sorts of connections between the two countries illustrated by McAlinden, Mr Dignadice said.

He attended a high school in St Pablo City near Manila where, in 1995, McAlinden served for two years, taking confessions from schoolchildren.

“Being a white and Catholic priest, he’s almost like a representative of God – it’s a paradise for him.”

Mr Dignadice had not heard of any accusations from the school against McAlinden but said the Philippines’ colonial and religious history made it very unlikely the Church would be challenged, while New Zealand represented a different approach.

“The Philippines have never had any inquiry about these things, it’s all under the carpet.”

In a statement, Catholic Cardinal John Dew said the Church recognised its own failings, and was studying the draft terms of reference for the New Zealand inquiry, and the results of the Australian inquiry.

However, he did not say if he supported the Filipinos in their call for the inquiry to cover the Catholic Church.

The New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice director, Rosslyn Noonan.

Rosslyn Noonan. Photo: RNZ / Phil Pennington

New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice director Rosslyn Noonan said there was only one opportunity to get a national inquiry right.

“There’s widespread concern that the current terms of reference are too limited … and we should take this one critical opportunity,” she said.

A big plus of the New Zealand inquiry, versus the Australian one, was that it aimed to cover all abuse, not just sexual, and to hold the state accountable, she said.

Lawyer Courtney McCulloch, who handles many abuse survivor cases, said under the current terms the inquiry would probably cover about half the children who went into church care, because the state would have had some involvement.

Catholic Church at centre of sex abuse hearing

Catholic Church at centre of sex abuse hearing

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The hearing, part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, is examining the current policies and procedures of the Catholic Church’s authorities in Australia relating to child protection and child safety standards, as well as their response to allegations of abuse.

In her opening address, Gail Furness SC said a survey revealed 4444 alleged incidents of abuse between January 1980 and February 2015 were made to Catholic Church authorities.

Ms Furness said 60 percent of all abuse survivors attending private royal commission sessions reported sexual abuse at faith-based institutions.

Of those, almost two-thirds reported abuse in Catholic institutions.

Ms Furness described the victims’ accounts as “depressingly similar”.

“Children were ignored or worse, punished,” she said.

“Documents were not kept, or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups.”

The average age of the victims at the time they were allegedly abused was 10 for girls and 11 for boys.

Religious orders were in the firing line with the data suggesting that between 1950 and 2010, more than 20 percent of Marist Brothers, Salesians of the Don Bosco and Christian Brothers had allegations of child sexual abuse against them.

For the St John of God Brothers, that number was 40.4 percent.

It is the first time the data has been released.

Documents were not kept, or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups.”

The average age of the victims at the time they were allegedly abused was 10 for girls and 11 for boys.

Religious orders were in the firing line with the data suggesting that between 1950 and 2010, more than 20 per cent of Marist Brothers, Salesians of the Don Bosco and Christian Brothers had allegations of child sexual abuse against them.

For the St John of God Brothers, that number was 40.4 per cent.

It is the first time the data has been released.

Nearly 1300 priests accused of abusing children

One of the Catholic Church’s most senior figures choked up as he acknowledged nearly 1300 priests had been accused of abusing children.

Francis Sullivan from the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council described the number as “shocking”.

“These numbers are shocking, they are tragic and they are indefensible,” he said.

“Each entry in this data, for the most part represents a child who suffered at the hands of someone who should have cared for, and protected them.”

The Archbishops of Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra-Goulburn have congregated in Sydney to give evidence as part of the three-week public hearing.

Questions are expected to focus on the extent of child abuse over almost seven decades and what church leaders are doing to protect children.

This is the 50th public hearing of the four-year-long royal commission and it is the 16th dealing with abuse in the Catholic Church.

The royal commission has investigated how institutions across the country, including schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations, have responded to allegations and instances of abuse.

– ABC

State abuse inquiry a ‘long time coming’

State abuse inquiry a ‘long time coming’

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the historical abuse of children in residential state care has been a long time coming – so long, in fact, that a number of the former wards we will hear from will probably be well into their 80s.

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In terms of summoning old ghosts, however, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deserves credit for allowing a comprehensive political fact-finding exercise in which the reputation of some previous Labour governments also appear booked to take a wallop.

New governments, after all, typically tend to concentrate on serving up rich sauces of symbolism, high in popular cholesterol and with much joyfully self-referential music playing in the background.

The idea usually is not to make them potentially damaging to their own political health or that of their party brand.

Ms Ardern has said the inquiry, which will be the most retrospectively far-reaching of its kind to be held in her first term, will not primarily be about the individual cases RNZ and other media have highlighted over the past 18 months.

Rather, she says, it will be about examining those systems that failed. It will look at what governments did and didn’t do as they blundered for the most part through the decades in looking for new ways to care for the neglected young and those who landed on the wrong side of the youth courts.

Many of those administrations were Labour-led.

Troubled history

It was, after all, under a Labour government that these onetime educational residences became the youth crime facilities that have featured in so many of the hard-luck stories that the public has become familiar with over recent years.

The first dramatic turn for the worse almost certainly occurred in 1972 when the old Child Welfare Division of the Department of Education, as it had been known since 1948, morphed into the then new Department of Social Welfare, which assumed the oversight of the country’s residential institutions.

Many of the abuse claims currently outstanding relate to the years immediately following this change, which passed on the watch of the third Labour government.

Fifteen years on, it was another Labour government that began winding down the national operation as it had become.

What remained of the 26 residences closed their doors – but there was to be no closure of the sort the Royal Commission will be looking to give and which Labour at the time, had it not been mired in its own ideological civil war, might have provided.

As the reverberations of the failed experiment first began to be felt, it also fell to the last Labour government to deal with the hundreds of miserable claims made by former wards.

The government of former prime minister Helen Clark oversaw the establishment of a Historical Claims Unit within MSD, which soon found itself overwhelmed by petitioners.

Outstanding claims

Within a couple of years, the number of claims in the unit’s quiver had reached 140 – many of them highly complex – that somehow had to be dealt with by a team comprising just five advisors and a couple of administrative staff.

By the unit’s own estimate in 2010, around two-thirds of the claims the hard-working unit had worked on had reached some kind of agreeable resolution, whether in the provision of important information or the issuing of an ex grata payment, usually at the lower end of the spectrum up to $30,000.

But this accounted for just 36 such claims; a further 137 still awaited action even at that point, and the number over recent years has only grown apace.

None of this to suggest the issue has been only of Labour’s making. Indeed, more than most, the matter of these old residences remains an equal-opportunity political offender, reflecting not only the two major parties but others like the Māori Party and the Greens who between them barely murmured when the subject first began to air.

What is more, it was the National Party that refused to countenance any kind of official inquiry at all.

“Today we are sending the strongest possible signal about how seriously we see this issue by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry,” Ms Ardern said in announcing the overdue remedy. True enough. But she is also sending the strongest possible signal that few previous administrations are likely to emerge with their reputations enhanced by it.

* David Cohen, a former ward of Epuni Boys’ Home, is the author of Little Criminals (Random House), a portrait of the state-run children’s residences that operated in New Zealand between the 1950s and late 1980s.

‘The ground has been covered’ – English on state abuse inquiry

‘The ground has been covered’ – English on state abuse inquiry

17 Jan 2018

‘The ground has been covered’ – English on state abuse inquiry

12:11 pm on 17 January 2018

New Zealand is already working to change the state care system, and an inquiry into child abuse will only distract from that, opposition leader Bill English says.

Many of the thousands of children placed in state care between the 1950s and 1980s were subjected to sexual, physical and mental abuse.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised an inquiry would be launched in Labour’s first 100 days, but there have been calls to broaden the government’s inquiry into the abuse of children in state care.

Ms Ardern rejected that, saying the focus should stay on the role the state played.

Speaking to Summer Report for the first time this year, Mr English said he had not changed from his government’s position that there was no need for a historical inquiry.

“An inquiry that’s launched now in my view frankly is likely to take the energy that’s currently been directed to positive change, so these things do not happen again and direct it into going over ground that has been gone over,” he said.

“The previous government had a very hard look at how state care was working, went through a process in great detail, and now there’s a major change going on in the operations of state care based on all the analysis of all the past performance and on principles of social investment so we can do a much better job for these young people.”

The United Nations recommended in August that New Zealand hold an independent inquiry into the abuse of children and adults with disabilities in state care.

Similar inquiries have been set up in Australia and the United Kingdom, but Mr English said the situation in New Zealand was different.

“The inquiries in Australia and the UK … they’ve been Royal Commission type inquiries not really focused on changing the machinery of government, based simply on listening to the stories.

“Now, in New Zealand there’s been a parallel process going back quite a number of years through the confidential listening process, and a large number of legal settlements regarding abuse, and that has provided the opportunity for people to be heard.”

“So in that sense the ground has been covered in a couple of different ways,” he said.

He also said he had heard some of the stories first hand.

“As an MP I’ve had the experience I’m sure many other local MPs have had, of sitting in the office and hearing these stories.

“In fact, I remember them going back to the early ’90s, hearing some of the horrific stories out of the mental health institutions at the time, which certainly persuaded me that those needed to at least change and probably be closed.”

“One of the benefits of the processes that have been gone through is that victims get to tell their story.”

However, the stories have not generally been aired publicly, and the government has not yet apologised, although the new Minister for Children has said it should.

Mr English also criticised the government’s 100-day plan, saying although it had done most of what it set out to, it achieved little.

“The question is whether the checklist is compiled of things that are going to make any difference to anybody.”

“Setting up the mental health commission doesn’t change any mental health services, setting up the child abuse inquiry if anything may detract from the scale of change that’s going on there right now.

“The free first year of tertiary education … is being explained to us in Parliament as MPs didn’t need $100,000 a year, well in my case they’ve handed my household $600,000 a year.

“Its’ a very expensive, very poorly targeted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, couple thousand more people into tertiary education.

He said New Zealand was doing well, and his opposition would criticise the government where it seemed to be going “off track”.

“When you’ve got an economy generating so many jobs, you’ve got strong government books that allow us to deal with child poverty, you’ve got well-developed policy that’s allowing us to fix the quality of fresh water in New Zealand – then keeping that momentum going is important.”

“If the government says they can do better then we’ll encourage them and support them where they have policy that says they actually will do better.

He also targeted the coalition arrangement.

“The question is going to be will they agree on anything past that 100 days.”