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“Keeping the bastards honest” – Royal Commissions and government transparency – or lack thereof!

Since 2012, there have been eight Royal Commissions established, of which 5 have been completed.

The first of these, established by Julia Gillard’s government, was the RC into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. There was strong opposition to this move, possibly by those more interested in protecting the churches than in protecting the children from abuse by the churches.

The findings were horrific, and, rightly, severely damaged the reputation of most religious organisations, as well as other institutions which had the task of protecting vulnerable children.

What has been even more damaging to some of these institutions, is the lack of interest shown by many of them to support the program designed to compensate the victims for their sufferings, however insufficient that financial compensation might be to those badly damaged by their abusers – or even, in too many cases, the families of those victims now deceased as a consequence of the abuse.

And many of these institutions are still receiving tax relief, because of their claimed purpose of providing charitable services.

If they cannot provide substantial compensation for those whom they have damaged, then they should not be eligible for any favourable tax treatment!

This is an ongoing issue, nearly 3 years after the report was received by government.

Many RCs are sought for political motives, as was the RC into the Home Insulation Program, instigated by the Coalition government – as have been all the following RCs discussed in this post.

There were many faults found in the program, but when the report is examined closely, it becomes clear that the period preceding the GFC, when the Coalition government had been in power, had allowed regulations and controls to be neglected, so that

[Commissioner] Hanger found the training regime and regulations at the time of the first of four fatalities in October 2009 to have been seriously inadequate:

“With the exception of South Australia, which had a licensing regime for insulation installers, there was no insulation-industry specific regulation beyond the generally applicable occupational health and safety regulation.”

That is not to suggest that there was no fault in the Labor government’s handling of the processes, but, having been out of power for 12 years, and barely settled into office when the GFC crunch came, Labor had an uphill battle to reverse the neglect, while trying to prevent the country sliding into recession.

The RC into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was most definitely established for political purposes. Despite serious attempts to smear the reputations of Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten – as well as attack the integrity of several unions – particularly the CFMEU (now the CFMMEU) – this costly exercise appears to have resulted in only one conviction and little damage to reputations.

The next RC into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory has yet to bear fruit in terms of the NT government’s ensuring that the recommendations are implemented. Sadly, throughout Australia, historical handling of the lives of our First Nations and failure by governments at all levels to form effective avenues to address Indigenous disadvantage – plus the continuing insistence that children between 10 and 14 are capable of deliberate criminality, and far too little emphasis on appropriate early intervention and diversion – means that this issue will not be addressed adequately overnight.

The RC into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was long overdue. The refusal by the Coalition government to consider establishing this was long drawn out, and when, reluctantly under Malcolm Turnbull, it eventually proceeded, politics motivated an (unsuccessful) attempt to use it to damage the reputation of industry superannuation funds.

The revelations were startling, reputations in the banking world, in particular, were damaged, numerous resignations followed, and the retail superannuation funds integrity suffered, while the industry funds processes were vindicated.

The government promised to follow through all the recommendations but lack of transparency, and the intervention of the COVID-19 pandemic, have left us uninformed as to progress.

Now for the currently most important one – the RC into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

It goes without saying, that if government agrees to establish a Royal Commission, it is aware that all is not well. In relation to reporting, the following describes the requirements:

An Interim Report is due no later than 31 October 2019 and a Final Report due no later than 30 April 2020. An Interim Report (v.1, v.2, v.3) was published on 31 October 2019. Amended Letters Patent of 13 September 2019 appointed the Hon Tony Pagone QC as an additional Commissioner and as Acting Chair in the absence of the Hon Richard Tracey; and amended the date that the Final Report was due to 12 November 2020.

The timetable has been disrupted by the pandemic, but if only the matter had been begun sooner, Victoria might not be in the mess that it is at present.

The states are responsible for health issues but it is the Commonwealth government which is responsible for how Aged Care facilities are regulated.

It is also the Commonwealth government which established legislation governing workplace issues.

Traditionally, and as a broad generalisation, occupations followed almost exclusively by females – Early Childhood Educators, Nurses, Care Workers, Carers – have received lower wages and benefits than have been enjoyed by those in predominantly male occupations.

In addition, Conservative governments have worked hard to undermine – and if possible, destroy – unions. Consequently, employers have been able to drastically reduce the numbers of jobs where employment is permanent, contracts abound, and negotiation is almost always weighted in favour of the employer, while zero hours employment leaves people at the beck and call of the employer with no certainty of a regular income.

Seriously – when you stand back and look at the employment situation for the lowest paid, it smacks of slavery and exploitation.

A high proportion of Aged Care Homes are for profit, so, if government increases payment to the management, far from all of it goes to improving the service offered.

After all – any corporation owes its duty first and foremost to satisfying its shareholders.

So in these circumstances, the carers cannot afford to take time off work because they are feeling poorly.

The other issue which the government introduced was ending free child care – and child care, particularly if there is more than one child, does not come cheaply, so providing another disincentive to the carer to take time off if they feel poorly.

I am sure that, if Parliament was still sitting, as it should be – everyone else has had to adapt to different work situations – Senator Steele-John would be ensuring that the RC into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability would be progressing as planned.

4 April 2019 (Letters Patent). An Interim Report is due no later than 30 October 2020 and a Final Report due no later than 29 April 2022. Amended Letters Patent of 13 April 2019 appointed the Hon Roslyn Atkinson as an additional member and the Hon Ron Sackville as Chair. Other states (NSW, Qld, SA, Tas, Vic, WA) have issued their own Letters Patent.

Again, the pandemic induced crisis has obscured the situation.

I do not doubt that many of those whom we have elected to form our government might be intelligent and well-meaning people.

What I am sure most of them are not, is aware, at first hand, of the conditions which our lowest paid employees face, day to day.

Not only do most of them have no hope of ever owning the roof over their heads, they lack the knowledge and resources to handle bullying from landlords and others who have the power to destroy their livelihoods.

And then there are the homeless – of two varieties.

Firstly there are those who have been temporarily accommodated to enable them to social distance, but who will be back, sleeping rough, once that assistance is withdrawn. These need a massive increase in social housing to be made available – as soon as possible. This is an urgent government responsibility.

But the other group is in many ways more tragic.

They lost everything in the the unprecedented bush fires of 2019-2020, and were promised help was on its way.

Clearly, that help has been loaded on to a slow train to nowhere, while the government diverts its attention to the other outstanding investigation – a RC into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

20 February 2020 (Letters Patent). Final Report is due no later than 31 August 2020.

The money spent on a few of the RCs was probably worth it, providing the recommendations are acted on as promptly as possible.

I fail to see how, with all that needs to be done, the Coalition government can possible justify preventing Parliament from sitting, while refusing to cut their salaries.

Clearly, there is one rule for them and another for us!

Meantime, the Prime Minister, the Honourable (?) Scott Morrison, has lavished care on a select few who support his ideology and who, with no over-sighting by Parliament, are making plans to perform a miracle – returning life to ‘normal’ for those whose businesses are profitable and whose savings are invested to generate more wealth, and who do not have a clue about the stress levels being encountered by millions of Australians.



I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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  1. New England Cocky

    I agree with your proposal, NO commitment to compensation for child victims of institutional abuse then no government funding for any branch of the organsiation, including no tax relief, and inclusion for local council rates.

  2. leefe

    “I do not doubt that many of those whom we have elected to form our government might be intelligent and well-meaning people.”

    Some. Not many. There is little evidence of it in most.

    “What I am sure most of them are not, is aware, at first hand, of the conditions which our lowest paid employees face, day to day.”

    Many of them know. Most don’t care. And that is the crux of the problem.

  3. Kerri

    Not to mention our “Treasurer” who favours economic policies that are 30 years old so he can keep pi**ing on those less fortunate.
    Like I keep saying to hubby, “Gosh it’s almost as if people had decent wages and work conditions world wide this pandemic would not have been quite so bad?”

  4. DrakeN

    Well collated, Rosemary.

    Thank you.

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