Ministerial responsibility

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:35): Yesterday, the house reflected on the life of the late Hon. Robin Millhouse, former attorney-general in this place, who went on to serve on the bench and make a significant contribution to the life of South Australia. That was reflected on by the Premier, the Deputy Premier, the Speaker himself and, from our side, the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Robin Millhouse, in his contribution to a book entitled The Liberal Movement, talked about the importance of liberalism and the importance of our parliamentary system, our democracy and responsible government. I quote Robin Millhouse:

To Liberals, the importance of mankind lies in the importance of every single human being, and not in the State or in a power structure.

He continued:

Liberalism believes that sovereignty lies in the people. The sovereignty is expressed through a Parliamentary system in which elected representatives of the people are free to act upon their own convictions, which have previously been expressed and accepted by the majority of electors.

In the political sphere, Liberalism upholds:

• an independent judiciary
• the control of the executive by Parliament
• the utmost possible decentralisation of Government
• an election system which maintains majority rule and regularly-held elections.

The words of Robin Millhouse are as true today as they were then. They are the essence of liberalism, they are the essence of responsible government, and I am going to come back to the issue of Oakden and ministerial responsibility. If this house so proudly and correctly upholds the virtues of the late Robin Millhouse—and everyone spoke glowingly of him yesterday—we should take that as the bar of what ministerial responsibility should be all about.

Over the last couple of weeks, and since late last year, the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse has been asked probably in excess of 150 questions on her ministerial responsibility in relation to Oakden. At no point in any of her answers back to this house did the minister choose to act in a way that reflects responsible government. At every single opportunity she has ducked and weaved from her responsibility in answering to the house. Of course, in answering to the house it is not about her wasting an hour of question time; it is about her being responsible to the South Australian people. That is one of the biggest travesties in this whole sad Oakden debate, that we have seen the breakdown of ministerial responsibility in the state of South Australia.

If we look at the question time from April, time and time again the minister was asked what she knew of Oakden, the tragedy at Oakden, when she attended the site, to whom she spoke, yet at no time did the minister give answers that were appropriate or fulsome. At all times she sought to avoid being specific in her responsibilities as a minister. She has provided this house several ministerial statements, all of which have changed their tune every time. We see inconsistencies in her responses to that of the Premier once again today.

The people of South Australia want to know what the minister knew. Today in question time the Premier got up and said that the ministers are not responsible, they are not clinicians, they are not responsible for what happens in their department; that is the job of the bureaucracy and the clinicians to do that. I would argue, and the average person in the street would argue, about the needs of responsible government, and unfortunately for this government they fundamentally fail the pub test in terms of ministerial responsibility on this issue.

We have had a minister who constantly hides behind her desk, who says, 'I have so many reports to provide, I can't read them all.' She failed to provide, on time, the borderline personality disorder plan and she failed to provide, on time, the Alcohol and Other Drug Strategy Plan. She has failed to present to parliament, on time, the Suicide Prevention Plan, and she failed to appoint the Mental Health Commissioner on time. She has failed time and time again in her duty as a minister to be responsible to this house, to be responsible to the families that have been tied up with the whole sad Oakden scenario, and she has failed in her responsibility to live up to what it means to be a responsible minister in a Westminster government.