Grievance Debate - Oakden Mental Health Facility

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:08): Today, I wish to acknowledge the late Bob Spriggs for his courageous fight in his treatment and ultimate passing after the experience at the Oakden facility. He, of course, suffered treatment that was not only indecent but criminal in respect of the 10 times prescribed medication overdose and the unexplained bruising when he was admitted to hospital. I also wish to acknowledge Mr Maurice Corcoran, the Principal Community Visitor, who, in his annual report in 2016 to this parliament, shone a light on the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service and the scandalous misconduct that was going to be investigated. 

Finally, I wish to acknowledge Dr Aaron Groves who, notwithstanding the restrictive terms of reference that he was asked to investigate and review parts of the Oakden facility, provided a very significant report on this facility, which may have caused discomfort to the government but at least gave some hope to the families of those who have a loved one still in this facility or who have a loved one who has died there since its opening 15 years ago.

The position is that we took months to fight the government to seek that a community visitor service be included in the Mental Health Act some years ago, in 2011. We fought against the government. We finally achieved that and we are thankful to Mr Corcoran for his work in uncovering and giving some opening for the people who have been so shamefully treated.

These are the facts. On 17 January this year, the ABC broke the story on television of the shameful treatment towards Mr Spriggs, and the plaintive pleas of his family, and minister Vlahos at that time going on television to say: 

I'm angered by what I've heard and if it was my family I would be deeply, deeply unhappy just as the Spriggs family is and that is the reason I triggered this review.

This was referred to in the television program. That was the first time the public knew anything about the shocking scandal. On the face of it, that response by the minister was personally and appropriately professional and an entirely appropriate response, but the conduct of the minister before, during and after, which has now been exposed in relation to the investigation, leaves her stripped of any credibility as a responsible minister.

These are the events. In the early 2000s, Makk and McLeay wards, as part of commonwealth nursing home beds, were established. Clements House was retained at Oakden to deal with mental health patients who were otherwise to be transferred to other facilities. Prior to this report, we had a decade of shameful conduct and practices at this Oakden facility. In February 2008, minister Gago came to the parliament—in fact, on 1 April, haplessly, April Fool's Day—to try to tell us that 16 out of 22 failings of this facility for commonwealth funding had been achieved and that it was on the way to repair.

The minister told us this week that in 2011 minister Hill told us that there had been some clearance in respect of this facility. Nothing could be farther from the truth as we now know from the disclosure of this report. We now know that the community visitor had received a family complaint from the Spriggs family. He put it in his 30 September annual report to the parliament. Four times he reported in his report that Oakden needed to be reviewed and clearly investigated.

Finally, he had a meeting with the minister in October. He told her of the Spriggs case. He again tried to seek the Minister for Mental Health to do something about this. Two months later, she says, she finally authorised the investigation with the terms of reference. By 9 January, finally this investigation gets started, and we now know that there had been considerable notices to staff and the appointment of new staff. The report was then received on 10 April and nothing done.

I was asked this week by the media, 'What was the minister doing on the Easter weekend?' Apparently, on her own Facebook page she says that she was on her way to Sydney to go home to have fun over Easter, while she is telling the parliament here, 'I haven't read the report,' and that—in fact, she has refused to read the report—but she is going to do it. I do not care what the minister does in her spare time, but it is utterly shameful that she refused to read this report for at least a week, tells nobody in the government— and then apparently is sitting in the Chairman's Lounge, sipping champagne, talking about her new boots. That is scandalous.

She should have read it and she should have reread it and she should have come into this parliament and she should have answered those questions. It is a scandal that she is still there.