You are here

TT-Line – Child Safety


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Tags: TT-Line, Child Abuse, Child Safety, Commission of Inquiry

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, former Launceston nurse and alleged paedophile James Griffin worked on the Spirit of Tasmania between October 2003 and January 2009, according to the Coroner's report. Do you have any information you can share with the committee about Mr Griffin's time, I understand, working as a nurse or a medic on the vessel, and whether or not there were any allegations made or complaints related to the time Mr Griffin spent working on the Spirit?

Mr FERGUSON - I will ask the CEO to respond to your question. I will begin by saying that we are aware of and have spent considerable time asking the company to ensure that our records have been inspected thoroughly and anything that can be forthcoming to police is the appropriate mechanism for us.

Mr DWYER - That person was not employed by TT-Line. He was supplied through a skilled workforce subcontractor. There were no records of any concerns in relation to him, and as you have said, he finished up with that company in January 2009.

Ms O'CONNOR - Through a contractor he spent six years working on the vessel and what we know from his time at other places is that potentially there are people who have been hurt, or children who have been hurt. Can you confirm, Mr Dwyer, that the audit of company records has been completed and found no record of any complaint or allegation?

Mr DWYER - To this point I have been advised that there has been nothing.

Ms O'CONNOR - What are the processes TT-Line goes through in making sure its staff are appropriately screened, that the staff of contractors are screened, and that people have their necessary checks and balances? Which, as we know in Mr Griffin's case, did not prevent him from hurting people.

Mr DWYER - Any of our employees or contractors need to be licensed for the various areas of the business the operate in. For example, a paramedic would have to have qualifications which would have been vetted by the company that supplied them, and anybody who works on the ships has to have certain qualifications for whatever duty they perform on the ship.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is it a requirement, then, on TT-Line's part that both staff and companies contracted to supply staff to the TT-Line, given that there are always children on a sailing, must have working with vulnerable people registration? Is that part of a requirement?

Mr DWYER - At this point I'm not aware that that's a requirement.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is that something you might have a look at, Mr Dwyer?

Mr DWYER - Absolutely, yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - So at the moment there's no way to be certain that people who are working on the vessel who are in contact with children have working with vulnerable people registration?

Mr DWYER - That wold be correct, yes.

 

Ms O'CONNOR - I want to go back to James Griffin. We have established that TT Line undertook a search of records and found that there was no record of any complaints or allegations against Mr Griffin. These are events that happened, possibly, before any member at this table was associated with TT-Line. In regard to looking ahead, minister, I am curious to know whether the search of records and the concern about Griffin's time on the vessel was elevated to board level, and whether there has been work done inside the company about how you prevent someone like Griffin from being able to work on a ship like that?

Mr FERGUSON - I respect the question and I'm happy for the Chair to add to the answer as well, in fact to take the lead on the question. It is a question about the board's consideration of that risk management process. I totally respect that and endorse where the question is coming from, noting that without wanting to get ahead of, for example, the future commission of inquiry where these matters can be further considered, I would point to the fact that we have a working with vulnerable people card system for those circumstances that require it. There should be no sense that is a guaranteed fool-proof system.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it is only one piece of the tool kit.

Mr FERGUSON - It is one check. Chair, if you would like to add to that?

Mr GRAINGER - This was not brought to the board's attention because it is more of an operational matter. I know that management of TT-Line is diligent in its process and its policy maintenance. I am very comfortable that what the management is doing to reduce the possibility of these things happening in the future is going in the right direction.

Bernard has already highlighted to you what the process was and what the process will continue to be. Sometimes it is a matter of, after these things being brought to our attention, that we act on them. There are many places in the community we all go to that would not have the right processes in place. I am very confident with the management of the company. We will be looking at this in the future. In fact, they already have done, and they will act on it accordingly.

Ms O'CONNOR - The question is, what measures can the company take to reduce risk to the point of eliminating it to the greatest extent possible?

Mr GRAINGER - I am not sure if it can be eliminated completely. You can only do what you can do. We work very closely with Tasmania Police, Victoria Police, ASIO and Federal Police. We take advice on a regular basis, almost a weekly basis, from those units and we act appropriately.

Ms O'CONNOR - I have one more on this line of questioning. What I am trying to get at, Mr Grainger, is what practical and procedural steps has TT-Line taken, or is preparing to take, in order to reduce the risk to the lowest level possible, from the company's point of view, to children?

Mr DWYER - We manage a very comprehensive risk register within our business. That has been raised onto the risk register. Once we have analysed that and we have mitigating access to that, it is reported back to the board on what we anticipate to do to mitigate any risk within the business. That will be forthcoming to the board before we implement that.

Ms O'CONNOR - A final question to close this line of questioning. What is the likely time frame on any advice to the board about the company's formal response to the Griffin matter?

Mr DWYER - I am not quite sure what you mean by 'formal response'.

Ms O'CONNOR - What you've talked about is a set of internal processes that examined the historical situation and also identifies that there's a risk and then the response to that risk. You've talked about advice going up to the board. I'm interested to know when.

Mr DWYER - That would be early next year. It would certainly be in the first quarter.

 

Ms O'CONNOR - I want to wind up this line of questioning on James Griffin but there are still some questions outstanding. The Coroner's report was made public on 23 October; that is now a bit under two months ago. I am interested in understanding what sort of screening processes there are for staff who work on the Spirit vessels. To be honest, I am a bit concerned there's not a working with vulnerable people registration as part of that, given the number of children that are on the vessels.

It's nearly two months since the Coroner's report was handed down. I know it's a significant body of work, and there's absolutely no blame being cast here or anywhere - but what sort of screening processes do staff on the Spirit undergo? I am looking for a commitment around working with vulnerable people registration in the near future.

Mr DWYER - I should have given you some more information. Perhaps that might have answered it. Anybody who works on the ships has to have a Maritime Security Liability Card (MSIC) licence. It's similar to an identity card that you need to work at an airport or on the airport apron. To achieve that, you have to have a police check. Anybody who is a contractor who works on the ships or is a crew staff subcontractor has to have an MSIC card. You have to go through a police check to do that, but I don't think it is the working with vulnerable children process. That is something we'll take on board.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thanks, Mr Dwyer. The working with vulnerable people registration process is more comprehensive and sophisticated than a police check, and it can look at a person's background and patterns of behavior when they make an application for registration. A police check will potentially tell you whether someone's engaged in criminal conduct. It won't completely cover someone's conducts towards children. Can you see something going up to the board about working with vulnerable people registration?

Mr DWYER - Possibly, after the review, yes. I will say possibly, because the review hasn't been finished yet. I applied for a working with vulnerable people registration myself last year - I'm still trying to remember the process that I went through. We'll say it was onerous in the background - perhaps I didn't see as much what was happening in the background.

Ms O'CONNOR - The processes in the Department of Justice - I wouldn't call them onerous - but to a significant extent they're rigorous, and they have a capacity to check nationally for someone's behaviours; and it is not always about convictions. Without wanting to pre-empt the review, the board could probably see the value in upping the level of screening for staff who are on the Spirits.

Mr GRAINGER - I should add that the board welcomes any suggestions. We had a process with the Modern Slavery Act this year. We were not aware of the Modern Slavery Act and what that meant to us as a company - but we are now. The board will always welcome any improvements we can make to our personnel control and our employees and most importantly our passengers. We'll always welcome them, and always have done.

Ms O'CONNOR - I accept that and thoroughly endorse it, Mr Grainger. The issue here is that it hasn't been that long since the Coroner's report was handed down. I know there are processes in train, but it's a strong suggestion at the table that the board get onto the process of screening and working with vulnerable people registration.

Mr FERGUSON - Ms O'Connor, I'll just to add to that - I endorse the question and also endorse the answers. You can see our preparedness to explore this further, with the only qualifier being that we would want to see what the advice is and what the evidence is, about ways we can potentially improve our risk management. I can tell you very clearly, that the Government will take the view that these ships are now, and must always be in the future, be the safest they possibly can be. If there are any steps that we could take to make our ships and the passenger experience for all - including the most vulnerable of our passengers - safer, we will thoroughly and enthusiastically look to do that.

Mr GRAINGER - To complete this conversation, I'd encourage you to sit down with the CEO of TT-Line. We do many things that aren't public knowledge to make sure our vessels are safe and our people are safe - many things, processes and policies we've implemented. You should have a look at it, it's extensive and I suggest it would be a good thing for you to do.

Ms O'CONNOR - I will take you up on that offer, Mr Grainer.