Former Federal Court judge Alan Robertson will lead an inquiry into the case.
(Australian Academy of Law)
The disability royal commission
previously indicated it would not immediately examine Ms Smith’s death while a police inquiry was underway.
State Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said the State Government would cooperate with the federal review, including allowing public servants to give evidence.
“We’re very glad to welcome the news that the Commonwealth Government is going to be investigating the provider through the appointment of Alan Robertson, who is a retired Federal Court judge, and we will be fully cooperating with that investigation,” she said.
In a statement, NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said he was “first briefed” about the case on May 14, a day before it was made public.
He said the circumstances that led to Ms Smith’s death “must never be allowed to happen again”.
“It is important to note the review is to be conducted in a manner that avoids prejudice to any pending or current criminal or civil proceedings,” he said.
“I welcome and fully support the actions of the NDIS Commissioner and the comprehensive terms of reference established for this inquiry.”
Mr Robert said although he has been “kept informed of the proposed course of action” by Mr Head, the NDIS Act prevents him from giving direction to the commissioner in relation to particular individuals or providers.
Taskforce potentially ‘conflicted’
The announcement comes after the SA Opposition called for an independent judicial review into gaps in the disability care system, claiming a State Government-appointed taskforce could be “deeply conflicted”.
The taskforce was established to identify holes in the system and make recommendations on how to close them, but Labor leader Peter Malinauskas said it was not enough.
He said some of the members may be “deeply conflicted” because of previous or current disability roles, and should not be involved in investigating systemic failures.
“Reviewers are reviewing themselves. It is an unsatisfactory situation,” he said.
The calls were supported by former principal community visitor Maurice Corcoran.
“We need to have someone completely independent having a look at this,” he said.
“There are some great people on there [the taskforce] and they are great people with years and years of experience.
“But if we don’t have the benefit of someone completely independent, someone who’s dealt with these sort of things in other states or other jurisdictions involved in this process … then I think whatever comes out of it, if it doesn’t have that independent scrutiny, people are always going to question what the outcome is.”
Ms Lensink said the State Government was expecting to receive its first recommendations from the taskforce by June 15.
She also sounded out a message to all those in care, and to their loved ones, saying many paid carers were doing exemplary jobs.
“There are a lot of fantastic people working in the system and I’ve received correspondence from people who are quite distressed because they are responsible and conscientious and absolutely horrified about this situation,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“But we have identified that there are gaps in the system and those are things that we want to make sure that we are rectifying.”
Ms Lensink said the taskforce will look into the screening process as well.
(ABC: Angus Llewellyn) Audit to probe screening unit
SA Premier Steven Marshall said the state’s disability screening unit would also be audited by the taskforce.
“Obviously the Federal jurisdiction will have to audit their people but again, this is one of the reasons the taskforce has been set up, it’s got people from right across the sector,” he said.
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The state’s Department of Human Services told a parliamentary committee yesterday that Rosa Maione was granted clearance to work in the disability sector after Ms Smith’s death.
During the committee meeting, the committee was told she had been “banned” by the State Government-run Domiciliary Care program in 2013,
after money allegedly went missing from her client’s homes.
Ms Maione’s lawyer Stephen Ey rejected suggestions Ms Maione had been “banned”.
He said his client denied any wrongdoing over the 2013 allegations adding that no charges were brought.
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