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Defending state abuse: Follow the money

The cost to the Crown of fighting claims by victims of abuse in state care is finally revealed before a Royal Commission. Aaron Smale calculates where most of the money went.

Published on Newsroom

Aaron Smale had been told by the Ministry of Social Development and Crown Law back in 2017 that it was too complicated to work out how much they’d spent defending the state against claims of abuse. They had told a curious Jacinda Ardern the same thing when she was a backbencher in Opposition. It turns out they can work it out and it’s now obvious why they might not have wanted to try. The figures are damning.

In evidence given before the Royal Commission today, Simon MacPherson, from MSD’s senior leadership team, gave a breakdown of what the Crown has spent. What is particularly revealing is not so much the dollar figure but who got what.

MacPherson said: “From June 2007 to June 2019, the Ministry has spent approximately $76,922,972 on the resolution of Historic Claims. About 39 percent of that has gone to claimants as settlement payments and 7 percent has gone to Legal Aid. The remainder has been spent on operational costs and external legal fees (including Crown Law fees).”

To say that MSD has spent money on the “resolution” of historic claims is a complete misnomer. They’ve spent copious amounts of money trying to evade responsibility. A breakdown of the percentages shows this. Related to that is the use of the word “remainder”. This “remainder” is actually the biggest percentage, while that percentage is never given a number. And that large chunk of money doesn’t go to a “resolution”, but to Crown employees trying to block and deny a just resolution.

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By Aaron Smale
Published October 20, 2020

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