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Public Trustee - Guardianship Gag Provisions

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Friday, 2 December 2022

Tags: Public Trustee, Freedom of Speech

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, Advocacy Tasmania, Leanne Groomsbridge, in particular, has been outstanding and was the reason the Bugg review eventuated and the changes that are in train are so important.

Something she is very passionate about is the capacity for people to speak about their experiences and to talk about their situation. It has been the case that people have effectively been gagged, for want of a better word, by the law, and not able to speak out. We have the draft laws that you're preparing. I understand that section 123 of TASCAT prevents reporting on matters from the tribunal relating to a person on guardianship orders without the consent of the tribunal which, as I read it, can be granted under schedule 3.

Would you consider looking into those matters and pursuing a solution that's similar to amendments you brought forward under section 194K of the Evidence Act?

Ms ARCHER - I can. There's been a lot of public sentiment expressed in relation to what is being referred to as 'gag orders'. Members will be well aware that there was a draft bill for amendments, which I referred to as the second tranche of the gag reforms, released for public comment. Due to stakeholder requests, they wanted further time to make submissions. I extended that time until 18 November. I did that because I wanted to receive further submissions from those stakeholders in relation to a number of matters, but specifically that one. The draft bill currently didn't contain that, but I have expressed the view to my department to look at it in, can I indicate, a very positive way of ensuring that it is removed in circumstances where people wish to speak.

It is important to point out that it's always been seen as a protection. It has not been seen to be a prohibiting type of section but that's how it worked in effect. My department is currently looking at that provision as part of that broader second tranche reform. I intended to table the draft bill in that last week but because of this and stakeholder requests, I didn't do that. I've held off because I specifically want to look at the issue.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can I say how grateful I am on behalf of the people who have spoken to us about this issue? That sounds really positive and we will wait and see the bill.

Have you had conversations with Ms Groomsbridge about what you're thinking? Has your department had conversations about where it is likely to head? Do you think that would satisfy the concerns she raises?

Ms ARCHER - I believe my department has spoken to Ms Groomsbridge on a number of occasions. I believe in relation to this provision but if not, they will, I am sure. There has been quite a bit of interaction and members may be aware that in response to one of the recommendations, a committee of stakeholders has been formed specifically to inform, not only in relation to these matters but other matters. I will ask Mr Kennedy to explain that process of working with stakeholders because it is important for these sorts of issues to ensure that stakeholders have a direct line of communication to the Public Trustee.

Mr KENNEDY - We've done a lot of work these past months around opening ourselves up as an organisation and making people feel comfortable approaching us and providing their feedback. One of the things I am most proud of is the work we have done setting up a couple of stakeholder reference groups, which is made up of clients and organisations that work with and help and support our clients. We meet with them every month to go through all the recommendations we are working on completing to make sure we are going about it in the right way and getting their feedback.