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Commission of Inquiry - Adverse Findings and Accountability

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 1 November 2023

Tags: Commission of Inquiry


The commission of inquiry was supposed to shine a light on responses to child sexual abuse in institutional settings, but your Government's lawyers fought the commission at every step to stop it making findings against state servants. As a result, people who covered up or failed to act appropriately and response to child sexual abuse have escaped accountability through the commission of inquiry process. They made that inference very clear in their report.

When you received the commission's draft final report you saw this written in black and white, but you did absolutely nothing at that point. Now you are asking the community to trust the Government to act appropriately in relation to these individuals, the same Government that until recently was acting to protect these people.

Can you see why the committee has no trust in you or your Government to make sure people are held accountable? Do you accept the only viable pathway to real accountability and trust in these outcomes is through an investigation that is independent entirely of the State Service, not an audit?



Mr Speaker, I reject the premise of the question. We set up the commission to shine a light on past failures. I have said that many times.

Dr Woodruff - This is how it started.

Mr SPEAKER - Before you go on. Leader of the Greens, please be respectful. You have asked the question of the Premier. It is not an opportunity to continually interject. You have asked the question. If you do not listen to it in complete silence, then I will ask you to leave the Chamber.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Thank you. August 2020 was the Department of Education inquiry, with which you would be familiar. Public information made it apparent that there needed to be a commission of inquiry in all state institutions to shine a light on past behaviours. As Premier, I have apologised to victims/survivors for those past failures back many decades, albeit the commission of inquiry's focus was commencing in the year 2000. We have 191 recommendations to implement, which we will.

We have been very open and transparent, embracing the opportunity for the parliament to be engaged in those recommendations. We are sitting an extra week of parliament to ensure there can be that scrutiny and accountability of a more comprehensive response to add to the response and actions I detailed in May 2022, the 30 actions of which 15 have been completed, possibly more. There was also the response I gave on the day of the tabling of the report.

In reference to your question, in February 2023 the state, through its lawyers, started to receive material from the commission that relate to the issues above. I am referring to my response to Ms Webb in those questions. Those materials were draft chapters that, in the commission's own words, were not reviewed by the commissioners but were prepared by the commission's staff. The state's lawyers were concerned that the content of the material did not appear to be compliant with the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995 with the rules of procedural fairness. Over the following months, the state's lawyers wrote to the commission on a number of occasions raising these concerns and suggesting options for how the issue could be overcome.

As I stated to Ms Webb in the answers to her questions, the state never received a written response to any of these matters. In March 2023, the commission indicated to the state that it needed an extension of time to complete its work. The state's lawyers wrote to the commission outlining their concerns on these issues and invited the commission to consider this issue in determining how much additional they would require.

It is noted that if the commission had any concerns about delays and risks to children it could issue an interim report finding or recommendation at any time. The decision regarding these matters was for the commission not the state. We received a final report following the last hearing of the commission.