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North West Health Services


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Tags: Corruption, Health, Integrity Commission, Misconduct in Public Office

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the people of Tasmania deserve and expect to have quality healthcare services and that means quality in what is provided in a compassionate environment, in facilities that are fit for purpose and in a timely fashion. These are all things that Tasmanians have a right to expect and the Government is duty bound to do everything it can to make sure that is what our publicly raised taxes are put into and deliver.

Fundamentally, we are talking about an issue of how services are delivered as well as how much money goes into the provision of services. The Greens have long pointed to the fact that this Government came in six years ago and immediately cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of the health service. That has left a massive hole which has been impossible for the Government to catch up with. We have the worst ambulance ramping in Australia and the highest elective surgery waiting lists, with people who are waiting in pain and great anxiety to have colonoscopies to see if they have bowel cancer within the required time frame, but failing to be able to do that because the services are not available. We have people with serious health issues and in a lot of pain unable to get elective surgery to fix those things within anything like the necessary time frames.

That is the background, but the other issue is about the delivery of services and how that is done. The interim report on the north-west outbreak and the comments made by the Director of Public Health and Dr Anthony Lawler make it clear that one of the three things that led to that outbreak were cultural and behavioural issues. These are important because they underpin trust, they underpin the capacity for teamwork and they underpin the quality of good communication. All of these things are fundamental to a functioning health service that delivers in a compassionate, timely, efficient and effective fashion.

We will wait to hear the result of the committee's work looking at the north-west outbreak but there is a lot of work this Government needs to do on being able to set the culture across all departments to ensure that the delivery of services, not only in health but in all areas and departments, is done fairly and without any maladministration.

We are concerned with the yawning gap which the Government continues to avoid responding to, which is the requirement to be able to hold senior public servants or any public servants to account for maladministration or misconduct. A report was tabled yesterday by the Integrity Commission which points to serious misconduct and maladministration by a senior health department official. I will not go into the details of that person but I will say it included serious conflicts of interest, behaviour which involved victimization, intimidation and improper punitive action of staff, the taking of equipment for personal use and personal gain and a whole range of other things which are incredibly serious.

This person and their actions, however, cannot be held to account because they resigned a month before, I understand, some period of time before this report was released. Why did that happen? I cannot speak to that individual's motives but I can say what the effect of those motives are, which is there is no challenge to the culture in the Health department to change what they do. There is no way of being held to account and there is no crime in Tasmania for misconduct in public office, just as there is no crime for maladministration.

I want to make the point, which is pretty obvious to everyone working in local government, that this Liberal Government has dual standards in this regard. The local government review and the Government's own amendments to the Local Government Act that are being prepared recommends that there is a crime of maladministration for people in local government. If it is good enough for local government to be held to account, why isn't it good enough for state servants and members of parliament to be held to account for the actions that we take? Why isn't it good enough for contractors, volunteers, statutory office holders, to be held to account, as well as ministers and members of parliament?

According to the Integrity Commission's Interjurisdictional Review from 2014, we are the only state in Australia that does not have a misconduct in public office offence. How can this be the case? Can't we see the obvious implications it has when we have leaked documents from the secretary of DPIPWE showing that there was this unholy relationship with a senior lobbyist from industry to get access to essential workers coming into the state?

Surely we can see that this leads us to a situation with ministers, members of parliament and senior public servants not being able to be held to account. What we have to do is bring in that crime of misconduct in public office. That is something the Greens have been pushing for a few years and we will continue to uphold that.