My matter is for the Minister for Victim Support.
It concerns an issue to which my attention has been drawn recently by a close contact of mine whose son is a victim of crime.
This friend has told me that victims of crime must officially declare any amount of money that is received by them through interest on funds held for them in court. In other words, this money is taxable under current law.
The Taxation Section of the Funds in Court Office of the Supreme Court of Victoria has also confirmed this is the case.
The bottom line here, as far as I am concerned, is that these funds should not be taxed. Not least because this adds quite unnecessary complications and obligations, as well as financial loss, to the lives of people who already have an awful lot of things to process as it is. In the midst of what are often devastating, life-changing events for them, and in addition to everything else with which they are already trying to cope, these people should not suddenly be lumbered with a series of unexpected accounting and taxation considerations, of all things, to have to worry about as well.
Moreover, when you consider that tax exemptions are available for things like education allowances, childcare subsidies and payments for injuries at work, then it is really not clear at all why a different and more exacting standard is being applied to payments made to crime victims.
Taxing this money also seems cruel and inequitable in the sense that victims don’t typically receive a particularly large amount of overall financial compensation for the crimes committed against them and/or someone close to them in the first instance, either.
Indeed, I have previously raised a number of issues in the Legislative Council associated with the need for significantly improved financial assistance and compensation to victims of crime, and plan to continue to do so throughout my time here.
I was particularly delighted last year, for instance, to be able to identify changes that, with the support and agreement of the former Corrections Minister, Mr Carroll, ultimately allowed victims new access to payments made through the Prisoner Compensation Quarantine Fund.
However, there still remains much, much more to do in this area.
As part of that, and given all of this background, the action I seek this evening is that Minister Hutchins clarify whether it is possible for her, in her capacity as Minister for Victim Support, to directly initiate the changes necessary to make money received by Victorians in their status as victims of crime tax-exempt.
Alternatively, if this is the responsibility of another Minister or government, I seek her commitment that she will personally advocate for these changes.