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Push for public hearings squashed as Oakden scandal deepens

The Oakden nursing home scandal continues in South Australia after the Government defeats legislation to allow the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) to conduct open hearings as part of his investigation. 

Mr Lander says the Chief Psychiatrists shocking report identified sub-optimal care at the Oakden facility (Source: Government of South Australia 'The Oakden Report')
Mr Lander says the Chief Psychiatrists shocking report identified sub-optimal care at the Oakden facility (Source: Government of South Australia 'The Oakden Report')

The legislation that would allow open hearings for the inquiry was introduced into the South Australian parliament on Thursday morning. Despite support from the Upper House and three crossbench MPs, the Government squashed the legislation.

Last week, Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) Bruce Lander announced that he would be conducting an investigation into the running of the Oakden facility. Mr Lander said referrals to his investigation as an ‘Ombudsman inquiry’ diminished the importance of his investigation.

“I think both of them [the government and the opposition] see political damage if I conduct these investigations in public because there is ongoing political damage they suspect might occur during the investigation,” Mr Landers told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“If it is conducted in private and the report is later published in public the amount of damage can be contained.”

The ICAC commissioner initially wanted the power to hold open hearings into the alleged misconduct and maladministration to ensure the public was aware of the process and could be satisfied with the integrity of his investigation.

Mr Lander says the Chief Psychiatrists shocking report identified sub-optimal care at the Oakden facility, leading him to believe there should be an investigation to determine who is responsible for it.

“I think ministers take less responsibility than they did 20 or 30 years ago, they have to have some personal involvement now before they will resign,” Mr Lander says.

“I’ll be investigating responsibility against the standards set by the Mental Health Act. The Mental Health Act sets out the functions of a minister which include providing care and assistance to people who require care and assistance because they have mental health problems, and the chief psychiatrist has also got responsibilities.”

Earlier this week Mr Lander commented on ABC Radio Adelaide that he is prepared to issue a Supreme Court summons to inspect cabinet documents and seek judicial intervention in the event that South Australian Premier Jay Wetherill claims public interest immunity to block them.

The ICAC commissioner says he wants to uncover who knew about the systemic maladministration at the Oakden facility and what was done about it. He has also made a public call for information, urging anyone who has any information that could assist him in his investigation to contact his office. 

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