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PM rules out inquiry into state abuse

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/04/2017

An inquiry is not needed into the abuse of children in state care because victims can already come forward and be heard, Prime Minister Bill English says.

The government is instead focused on improving how it looks after children currently in care so that past abuses are never repeated, he said.

"We don't see [an inquiry] is going to change much compared to getting on with protecting the children in care now, doing a much better job for them, because we can change their lives," he told Newshub on Monday morning.

Despite repeatedly ruling out an inquiry, Mr English's government has been facing increasing calls for an investigation into the full extent of the abuse of children and vulnerable adults in state care, dating back to the 1950s.

New Zealand's race relations commissioner Dame Susan Devoy joined the calls last month, saying the taking of Maori children from their families for no reason or for trivial reasons was the "definition of institutional racism".

"Without an inquiry into the abuse suffered by children in our state run homes we will never know its true extent," she said.

The Human Rights Commission and opposition leader Andrew Little are also among those backing it.

However, Mr English said the government had set up a process, which, for the past seven years, had allowed victims to come forward and be heard.

His government had also improved state care by making the largest and most important changes to it in the last 20-30 years, he said.

He also baulked at the cost of a larger inquiry.

"We do want to avoid this situation you are describing in the UK and Australia, [where there are] large, very expensive and inquiries, the Australian one is up over half a billion dollars," he said.

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