MP: Child abuse not acceptable

 State minister Luke Donnellan: community view.
State minister Luke Donnellan: community view.

A victim of clergy sexual abuse has called for immediate terms of imprisonment for clergy members who do not comply with mandatory reporting obligations.

The laws, introduced into parliament on Wednesday, will make religious ministries mandatory reporters of abuse suspicions, alongside police, teachers, medical practitioners and early childhood workers.

"It's pretty simple: if you think a child is being abused, you have to report it," Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said.

"We're committed to driving this cultural change to make Victoria safer for our children," he said.

But, according to Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet the penalty for failing to comply with mandatory reporting obligations is just 10 penalty units.

A penalty unit is today $161.19 so the maximum fine would be $1611.

It's understood that under the Crimes Act the maximum penalty is three years' imprisonment.

A south-west victim of defrocked pedophile priest Paul Ryan said this morning there was no point fining clergy members for failing to report sexual abuse.

"Imprisonment should be a starting point," he said.

"Surely the last 25 years has shown and taught us that penalties have to reflect crimes.

"There is no use in the government beating its chest about this issue and hitting those who fail to comply with a feather duster."

The victim said he previously told former Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns he had been abused by former Father Ryan but to his knowledge no action was taken by the bishop.

Another Warrnambool victim told Monsignor Leo Fiscalini she was being sexually abused in 1972 and he accused her of "telling lies" and left her in the care of her abuser.

The clergy abuse victim said failing to report abuse enabled abuse to continue, often involving other victims.

"It's time these crimes were taken seriously by the law and the church," he said.

"Enabling sex abuse, or the risk of sex abuse, to continue is almost as bad as the crime itself," he said.

At 9.30am: Priests will be compelled to break the seal of the confessional and report admissions of child abuse under news laws being introduced in Victoria.

The laws, introduced into parliament on Wednesday, will make religious ministries mandatory reporters of abuse suspicions, alongside police, teachers, medical practitioners and early childhood workers.

"It's pretty simple: if you think a child is being abused, you have to report it," Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said.

"We're committed to driving this cultural change to make Victoria safer for our children," he said.

The laws were a bi-partisan promise ahead of last year's state election.

But while both sides of politics agree, the Catholic Church says it will uphold the confessional.

"I am strongly committed to reporting to the appropriate authorities, and have already exercised that duty here in Melbourne. I am also strongly committed to upholding the seal of confession," Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli wrote in a pastoral letter in August last year when the laws were first flagged.

The Children Legislation Amendment Bill will also limit the right of appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal of murderers, rapists and other criminals rejected for working with children checks.