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Attorney-General and Justice – Public Trustee

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 6 June 2022

Tags: Public Trustee

Dr WOODRUFF - In relation to the Public Trustee and the recommendations from Mr Bugg, the support sector, Advocacy Tasmania, Anglicare, the Community Legal Centres Tasmania. COTA, the Disability Advocacy Network of Australia and Disability Voices Tasmania have been very vocal in calling for compensation to be made available where breaches have been found. In relation to the potential for compensation through ex gratia payments, last Thursday, you argued the Public Trustee would not be making determinations regarding the amount payable in compensation under that scheme. The Public Trustee would have to submit an ex gratia request to the Treasurer. That was your advice on Wednesday last week and is consistent with the Treasurer's instruction on ex gratia payments.

As far as I can tell, the Treasurer would have the final say, but only in respect of whether or not to approve a request that has been submitted by the Public Trustee which would include an amount determined by the Public Trustee. Is that correct?

Ms ARCHER - We follow the Treasurer's instructions. You have the Treasurer's instructions in front of you. The reason it is the Public Trustee in itself and not me is because it is a GBE. What I did say before, I cannot technically speak on an individual matter, but I would imagine the Public Trustee has accepted all of the recommendations. The Public Trustee, if there is a loss that has not resolved, and again I cannot speak on their behalf, but I am thinking of a scenario where this may occur, then I am sure ex gratia won't even be necessary.

I think the Public Trustee would be a body that would recognise that if through their own fault there is a loss, that they would recompense. But I keep returning to the recommendations the Bugg review did not make a recommendation there was a need for a whole compensation scheme. In response to that I say, if there is a case if there are individual matters. I would not expect there to be a lot because if there was a finding that there were not fundamental failings on behalf of the Public Trustee to warrant or require a compensation scheme then what would be available to individuals in that circumstance would be an ex gratia payment. I would add to that or maybe the Public Trustee would determine that themselves before even going down the avenue of an ex gratia.

Dr WOODRUFF - The budget line item for funding through recommendations from the Bugg review is for four years. This seems to be one example where you can actually plan into the future - the forward Estimates for the four years.

Ms ARCHER - I cannot believe you're going down this line, forward Estimates.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can you please detail what you are going to be putting that money into specifically. There are a lot of recommendations, noting that you said you would -

Ms ARCHER - All of the recommendations.


Ms ARCHER - Can I answer that?

Dr WOODRUFF - Can I just finish the question? Is the implementation of all the recommendations going to take four years? What is the time frame?

Ms ARCHER - The funding over four years is the figure we have at this stage. We regularly review, from year to year, the funding required for any matter. If at the end of four years for whatever reason, all of the recommendations had not been fully complied with - although I would hope by the end of four years they would be - then we would look at the funding at that point. If it needed further funding, then I would make a bid for further funding. That is how we do budgets. Also, as you have seen from the money I have committed to the Ombudsman, it was a significant amount increased last year and I have given more this year. The amount for this year was not in last year's forward Estimates and a classic example where we have reviewed the budget on an annual basis.

That is regularly reviewed and what I am saying at the end of four years - it is similar to the Commission of Inquiry. We have given our absolute commitment if it requires more than the $70 million we have allocated, we will pay it. I can say with the Public Trustee, we are absolutely committed to the Public Trustee complying with all of the recommendations or indeed, our department. Some of them have already been complied with because they are matters that are able to be dealt with quite quickly; then there are other matters that require more time for compliance. Importantly, the implementation of the recommendations is underway. They are being carried out as a matter of priority so I would hope that we will have them done within four years, but as I have just clarified, we would look at it if we hadn't. We are progressing a clear cultural and policy shift of the Public Trustee towards human rights and a supported decision-making approach to be imbedded in the Guardianship and Administration legislative framework through the next tranche of significant legislative reforms which are being introduced this year.

Of course, there are funding arrangements that support the implementation of the recommendation. We are also increasing and strengthening the oversight of the Public Trustee through a revised and updated ministerial charter that clarifies the Government's policy expectations and service delivery requirements for the Public Trustee. We are also supporting the Public Trustee in its significant work underway to progress improvements to its internal operational and administrative practices reflecting in a clear shift in focus to an improved and revised client- and customer-centric service delivery model.

Additionally, what I am pursuing for the reforms to the Guardianship and Administration Act is that there will be a legislative basis for the definitive shift to a rights, will and preference decision-making approach as opposed to the best-interests approach; but in relation to the Public Trustee approach, the Bugg review found that in carrying out its administration and financial obligations it wasn't taking an approach that took into account the human rights approach of an individual. For that, they have recognised, through the acceptance of all of the recommendations, that they have that improvement to make. The Government has recognised this by putting funding behind it. Again, I would like to see this happen as quickly as possible. Some things will take longer, but I would encourage members to see the Government's response because it is wholesome and there is a table against each recommendation that the Bugg review made as to what we have already done, what we are doing or what will need to be done - which I think you have in front of you.

Dr WOODRUFF - Does the funding include implementing the supported decision-making scheme in Tasmania that was recommended by TLRI in 2018?

Ms ARCHER - If it is part of the recommendations, it would. The secretary is reminding me part of that is part of the Public Guardian and also the Guardianship and Administration Board, which is now a stream of TASCAT because it is enveloped in the nine tribunals and boards that have become TASCAT. They have their own funding.

Dr WOODRUFF - That will happen under TASCAT's funding, is that right?

Ms ARCHER - Well, yes.

Ms BOURNE - I think the funding provided in the Budget to progress the recommendations from the Bugg review in many ways provides the foundation for the move towards that rights, will and preference decision-making approach which will be borne out in future legislative review.

Ms ARCHER - We have also put in the $1.9 million to TASCAT which I mentioned in my opening statement for its further and ongoing work and additional duties.

Dr WOODRUFF - They are slightly different things to a specific decision-making support scheme.

Ms ARCHER - Well, not really because part of TASCAT is the guardianship and administration stream and if it is demonstrated that further funding is needed then I will look at that, but at this point in time we have provided two lots of $4.3 million to the Public Trustee for implementation and its community service obligation as well, and I have also provided additional funding to TASCAT in recognition of its workload. Obviously, the guardianship and administration stream is very busy, as is the mental health area in particular.