Coalition agrees to pass laws forcing priests to report child abuse

Coalition agrees to pass laws forcing priests to report child abuse

New legislation forcing priests to report child abuse to authorities even if disclosed in confession now has enough support to pass through both houses of Victorian Parliament.

The Andrews government introduced the legislation earlier this month compelling priests to break the seal of confession to report disclosures of child abuse, but the Coalition stopped short of supporting it at the time.

However, on Monday Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien revealed he would back the bill.

“The safety of kids has to come first and we’ll be supporting legislation that does that,” he said.

Mr O’Brien stoked controversy earlier this month when he said the Coalition would need to see the bill to ensure it did not “infringe on other religious freedoms”.

But he said the shadow cabinet had met and agreed to support the proposed changes.

“We’ve read the bill. We understand it. We’ve consulted. We’ll be backing it.”

The government needs three votes to pass legislation in the Victorian Parliament’s upper house.

Coalition backbencher and staunch conservative MP Bernie Finn has described the new rules as “virtue signalling”.

The changes will bring religious leaders into line with police, teachers, doctors, nurses, school counsellors and youth justice workers who are required to report child abuse to authorities.

Premier Daniel Andrews attacked Mr O’Brien earlier this month when he refused to give his full support.

"No religion, no church, no person, no priest, no politician is free to do anything other than put the safety of our kids first," Mr Andrews said at the time.

The Catholic Church leadership has spoken out vehemently against the looming changes with Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli insisting he was prepared to go to jail rather than break the seal of confession.

Religious leaders face three years in jail if they refuse to comply with the planned laws.

The Coalition took a similar policy to the 2018 election.

https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/coalition-agrees-to-pass-law...