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Public Trustee - Rights of Clients

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Friday, 2 December 2022

Tags: Public Trustee

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, does the Public Trustee ever intercept or open represented people's mail? If that happens, what would the legal basis for that be? Does it ever happen?

Ms ARCHER - I haven't heard of that personally, but I will ask Mr Kennedy if there has been.

Mr KENNEDY - I'll have to take that on notice. I am not sure what happens with mail at an operational level.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. I'll put that on notice, thank you.

In relation to a person's wishes and section 57, how people's funds are invested matters to some people a lot. Some people would like to ensure that their money is invested with an ethically and socially conscious funds manager. How do you make sure of people's views and wishes? Are those questions that are asked of a represented person, whether they have any views? How is transparency guaranteed around that matter?

Mr KENNEDY - That's a really important consideration for the broader community as well, as far as what their investments are in. I think we have a lot of work to do on the investment process, and making sure that’s going at more of an individual tailored level for our clients, because at the moment we have our group funds.

On occasion, there are examples that I have seen personally where we have individual portfolios where clients have provided specific instructions as to how that portfolio is to be managed - whether it's to be invested in a certain way, or for certain investments to be retained. So, it is about taking that and making it more broadly when we deal with our clients.

Dr WOODRUFF - Through you, minister. Is the transparency around that recorded - the conversations and the wishes? Or is that just a verbal discussion?

Mr KENNEDY - No, we have a client profile where we record key information around preferences. Again, I think it's an area that can be built out further to incorporate more broadly a client's rights or their preferences. I would say that the investment one isn't a common one that comes up, but, as I said before, it is increasing, and it is certainly something we need to proactively ask when we are dealing with people.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, during budget Estimates you were asked questions in relation to compensation for Public Trustee breaches. You indicated you would expect the Trustee, as a first step, to offer recompense before going down the avenue of ex gratia payments. Could you outline for the committee how many requests for compensation the Public Trustee has received, how many ex gratia requests from the Trustee have been submitted to the Treasurer, and how many were approved and rejected?

Ms ARCHER - When I talked about ex gratia, that was in the case that the Public Trustee couldn't resolve matters where they'd arisen. I'll let Mr Kennedy address the few instances where that's been required, but it's really important to note that the independent review didn't recommend any sort of compensation scheme; it didn't require it. In relation to matters that have come up both publicly through the media or raised internally through the Public Trustee process, I'd imagine that in almost all cases there is a significant desire by the Public Trustee to resolve and recompense people. The ex gratia system across the board in any case is a last-resort type of situation, and I don't imagine that there's been any. I can check that, but I don't think there has needed to be any.

Mr KENNEDY - That is correct.

Ms ARCHER - Yes.

Dr WOODRUFF - The other part of the question was how many requests for compensation there have been?

Mr KENNEDY - There's been four, and we've resolved to client satisfaction three out of the four. There's one that's in progress.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Minister, what was the total compensation paid by the Public Trustee? You've just said there have been no ex gratia payments, so what was the total compensation that's been paid to date in those three out of four cases?

Ms ARCHER - I will get Mr Kennedy to advise or take that on notice - whatever he requires.

Mr KENNEDY - Of the cases so far, the payments that have been made are less than $50 000, but I'd need to take on notice that question and provide the actual amount.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you.