Ahead of first witness hearings in Adelaide on 11 February, Commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Richard Tracey say contractual confidentiality will not excuse providers to withhold information or refuse to answer questions in a hearing.
Commissioner Tracey says it would be “unlawful” for an organisation to take action against, or sue, someone for assisting the Commission.
“We would be gravely concerned if any operators in the aged care sector or Government bodies were to instruct their staff not to talk to the Royal Commission or to withhold information from us,” he says.
“It is a criminal offence...to injure another who has either appeared as a witness, produced a document, or given a statement in response to a summons or notice issued by the Royal Commission.
“(Taking action against someone) would result in very close attention being given to the lawfulness of that conduct and the motives behind it.”
During the preliminary hearing it was made clear the Commission may, if necessary, exercise its ‘extensive powers of compulsion’ to secure information.
“It has been our hope that providers would, and will continue, to assist us,” Commissioner Briggs adds.
“Inevitably, providers who do not engage with our requests draw attention to themselves and their practices."
The first witness hearings, which are expected to continue into the following week starting 18 February, will provide a broad overview of the current system and include accounts from consumer advocacy bodies, health care provider peak bodies and regulators.