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Report into terror attack ‘lacks teeth’

Editorial

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack in Christchurch is proving controversial as the Government now faces a decision on what compensation should be paid to the families.

On Friday the commission announced that evidence given by Ministers and public sector bosses will be suppressed for 30 years, shortly before presenting the long-awaited report from commissioners Sir William Young and Jacqui Cane to Internal Affairs Minister Jan Teneti. It will be publicly released on December 8, after being shared with families and political party leaders.

National security was cited as the reason for the suppression order. Full publication of evidence could provide a “how-to manual for future terrorists”, the commissioners said.

This seems a good reason, but some will feel it is a cover-up for perceived failures by the security services and the police.

One issue is the fact the shooter was given a gun licence on the recommendation a Waikato father and son who had only been in touch with him online. The names of the two are also suppressed to protect their safety.

Islamic Women's Council national co-ordinator Anjum Rahman said the suppressions raised concerns about accountability. The report lacked teeth and didn't provide answers the country needed about how the attacks were able to happen, she said. The council is calling for a coroner's inquest to deliver public accountability.

The next issue for the Government will be that of compensation for the families and the survivors.

Independent adviser Raf Manji has told the Government it has a moral obligation to compensate the victims for its failure to provide national security and protect them.

Compensation was given for previous accidents for which the Government had a regulatory or policy responsibility, such as the $2.6 million paid to Cave Creek victims' families in 1995 after the collapse of the viewing platform.

There have also been state payouts following terror attacks in New York, Madrid and Oslo, says Manji, who proposes a $34.8m compensation package.

The murder of 51 innocent people in a place where they had a right to feel safe aroused deep sympathy throughout the country and world.

So far the Government and in particular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has received international recognition for its empathetic response to the atrocity. It will be interesting to see how it responds to calls for compensation.