Government Accountability

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:08): Today, I rise to speak about yet another failure of this Labor government, another failure to protect our state's most vulnerable and disadvantaged and yet another failure of this government and this Premier—a failure to demonstrate any responsibility or accountability for the conduct and disgraceful practices of departments and agencies that report to them, a failure of our Westminster system of government. So often has a crisis occurred that every South Australian is now so well versed in this government playbook.

First comes the apology, next the hero moment—the minister comes to the rescue, the minister has shone a light upon the problem—and then the blame game. Of course, it is not the government's responsibility to oversee the priorities or performances of bureaucrats who report to them. No, they are merely glorified paper pushers who sign letters, cut ribbons and throw tuna. The blame for repeated catastrophic failures lies foremost at the feet of bureaucrats. Finally, we get a promise for change, and this is the model of government that we see at the moment, and we see it time and time again after they hit that repeat button.

The lack of accountability demonstrates an attitude that is endemic and has permeated across not only their frontbenches but every member opposite. This is a government that simply no longer cares about the welfare of everyday South Australians. The Chief Psychiatrist's report on the Oakden review details the treatment and shocking conditions that vulnerable South Australians lived in in this facility. Sadly, it is another example of this government's inability to safeguard South Australians, young and old.

It is truly heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking to find myself once again reading about the heinous conditions these vulnerable people have been subjected to. It was not that long ago that I was reading the report of the child protection royal commission. Reviewing that gut-wrenching report, I found it very difficult reading to work through. At that time, I hoped that I would never again have to read anything like it in regard to the behaviour and actions of the government and government departments.

Justice Nyland handed down the report into the catastrophic failures and systemic abuse of children in our care. Just nine months later, we read another report about how the South Australian government and the department have failed older persons in their care. South Australians expected more from their government back then, and they expect so much more from their government now. Enough of this blame game. When will it end?

Through 15 years of government, this government and the Premier have had the complete ability to choose all the staff in their departments. Every senior appointment in every government department has been hand-picked and signed off by the Premier and his senior ministers. The Premier and the government are responsible for the toxic culture in so many of our departments. The toxic culture in Families SA was created by those appointed by the government, and that same toxic culture, once again, is in the SA Health department that has overseen the Oakden crisis we are talking about so often at the moment.

The findings contained in the review into the Oakden facility are beyond reproach. The Chief Psychiatrist reports that the Oakden facility is 'more like a mental institution from the middle of last century' than a modern older person's mental health facility, and some of the practices used at Oakden were 'among the most abhorrent approaches to providing care to severely disturbed consumers that any of the review had encountered in well over 110 years of collective practice'.

It simply beggars belief that, in 2017, the practices at Oakden were those from over 110 years ago. I would be appalled if this were true of any modern facility, but it is galling for it to be operating here in South Australia under the nose of a government that has fallen asleep at the wheel. It is hard to comprehend that the minister was clueless about the conditions at Oakden or that the CEO of SA Health or NALHN had no idea.

I struggle to believe that nobody at any level made an effort to raise concerns in 2016, 2015, 2014 or any other year over the past decade. Why did they not report on the conditions? Why did they not request additional staff, additional funding or infrastructure improvements, or make any attempt to seek assistance that would have improved the conditions and outcomes for Oakden residents? It is a disgrace and a blight on this government and this minister that so many people got it so wrong for so many years.