22 April 2024

Tasmanian MP claims abuse inquiry was 'not fully informed'

| James Day
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Sign reading ''Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government's Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings''

In early 2021, an inquiry was established to review whether the Tasmanian Government appropriately responded to the recommendations made by the 2013-2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Photo: Commission of Inquiry Tasmania.

Tasmanian Independent MP Meg Webb has called on the Premier “to immediately withdraw and retract the Blake Review”, which was sparked by concerns that heads of agency had breached the State Service Code of Conduct during an investigation into the government’s response to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings.

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff was provided with the report by former Auditor-General Mike Blake AM in March.

Premier Rockliff has now released Mr Blake’s report, which found those permanent and acting secretaries had not breached the code of conduct of Tasmania’s public service.

The Premier accepted the findings and tasked the Acting Head of Tasmania’s State Service, Rob Williams, with working with secretaries of the relevant departments in considering Mr Blake’s recommendations for administrative improvements.

Last week Mr Blake briefed Members of Parliament on his report, which the Independent Member for Nelson said was “incomplete as it does not scrutinise all relevant material”.

“It came to light in today’s briefing that the reviewer was unaware of the existence of pertinent commission of inquiry transcripts and statements which have been removed from the current documentation available on the commission website,” Ms Webb said.

“I can only come to the conclusion that the urgent and responsible course of action is for the Premier, Jeremy Rockliff, to immediately withdraw and retract the Blake Review Report.”

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Ms Webb said that despite referencing two earlier reports into complaints involving department heads at the time, the reviewer was unaware there were three such reports – one involving a separate head of agency additional to those reports cited by Mr Blake.

“It also defies comprehension that the review cannot confirm nor deny whether the list of 22 recipients of Section 18 misconduct notices by the commission contains any former or current public sector secretaries, due to that question not being asked,” Ms Webb said.

Once Tasmania’s Parliament resumes on 14 May, Ms Webb said she would move for the re-establishment of the Legislative Council Select Committee on the Government’s Response to the Commission of Inquiry recommendations.

“The reviewer should never have been put in the position of having to know or guess what materials may exist relevant to his review in order to know what documents to request,” she said.

“While I appreciate the fact the briefing was offered and provided, I am stunned and gravely concerned over the number and range of serious and outstanding questions left unresolved.”

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Returning Independent MP for Clark Kristie Johnston said she would also press the new Parliament on re-establishing the select committee.

In the past, she has criticised Premier Rockliff and former DPAC Secretary Jenny Gale – who stepped down a few days after the state election – for repeatedly avoiding parliamentary scrutiny.

Ms Johnston said the committee had made several attempts to call the two as witnesses throughout January and February but were told they were unavailable.

“The Parliament created the Provision of Information Committee, of which I am deputy chair, to determine if the Premier and his departmental secretary Ms Jenny Gale were completely open and honest in regard to what they knew about Section 18 notices – that is, allegation of misconduct against public servants – issued by the commission,” the Member for Clark said.

“The committee is forced to disband and Tasmanians, particularly victim survivors, may never know the truth about who knew and turned a blind eye to child sexual abuse in government institutions.”

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