The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, said reports released at the weekend, based on highly classified government documents leaked by a whistle-blower, “would sicken every Victorian”.
Mr Walsh said for 65 vulnerable children, known to child protection, to have died in one year, “is a tragedy beyond belief”.
He said the reported circumstances of their deaths, which have not been denied by the Andrews Labor Government, are cause for grave concern, and the immediate instigation of a full, independent inquiry.
“It is reported authorities were far too slow to act in numerous cases,” Mr Walsh said.
“Consequently, some of Victoria’s most vulnerable children were left in dangerous, indeed deadly, environments,” he said.
“It is also reported serious errors were made in individual cases, including the placement of children with entirely unfit carers.
“And undoubtedly, as the whistle-blower has reportedly said, failures were made far worse by last year’s 111-day lock down – the direct result of the Andrews Labor Government’s horrific mismanagement of hotel quarantine and contact tracing.”
Mr Walsh said Victoria’s child protection system is clearly – and utterly – overwhelmed.
He said these disturbing reports come after Child Protection Minister, Luke Donnellan, in Parliament last year that “in terms of the total number of people employed in child protection, it has never actually been higher”; was glaringly contradicted by annual reports; which showed there were 71 fewer staff in 2019-20 than in 2018-19.
“Despite the best efforts of many outstanding community organisations, government failures mean far too many at-risk children are not getting the care and support they need,” Mr Walsh added.
“These latest revelations come on top of Crime Statistics Agency data that shows sexual offences against children rose by a staggering 88 per cent in Victoria last year, and reports that children are being groomed and abducted from child protection facilities, before being forced into paedophile prostitution rings,” he said.
“Victoria is facing a child protection emergency. And it’s an emergency of the Andrews Labor Government’s making.
“In the wake of these latest shocking revelations, the Andrews Labor Government must immediately commit to a full, independent inquiry.”