Committee Findings and Recommendations
1 The Committee makes the following findings from its consideration of the evidence, much of it conflicting, gathered over the course of the inquiry:
COMMITTEE FINDING 1
The working relationship between the CCC and DET became increasingly dysfunctional between June 2005 and October 2006. Refer to Recommendation 3 in this Report.
2 The Committee has formed the view that this particular issue is too complex for the Committee to examine in any detail in the short inquiry period. The Committee suggests, however, that the events that prompted the CCC to publish the CCC Report and the subsequent abolition/re-structuring of the CMU should be examined by a parliamentary committee.
COMMITTEE FINDING 2
The Minister was never briefed in writing by Mr Paul Albert, the Director General of DET, in relation to the CCC inquiry into Sexual Contact With Children By Persons in Authority in the Department of Education and Training of Western Australia and the CCC Report that was received in draft form by the DET on 4 July 2006.
3 The Committee is strongly of the view that the Minister should have been given more information by Mr Albert about the CCC inquiry and draft report. The Director General should have provided written reports or briefings to the Minister on the matter, and the matter should also have been placed on the Minister’s Contentious Issues file.
COMMITTEE FINDING 3
Mr Paul Albert, Director General of the DET, relied on three reasons as to why he did not brief the Minister in writing in relation to the CCC inquiry and draft CCC Report:
a) the uncertainty within the DET as to the restrictions imposed on the disclosure of information by the Corruption and Crime Commission Act 2003, which was highlighted by the confusion within DET over the CCC’s covering letter to the draft CCC Report and the CCC’s guidelines on the “Disclosure of Misconduct Reports Made to the Corruption and Crime Commission”;
b) the practice of DET not to brief the Minister on the specifics of individual cases handled by the CMU, as such matters were regarded as operational matters for the Department to manage; and
c) the attitude within DET that the matter was being handled, and that the CCC investigators would not finalise their report without speaking directly with the Director General.
4 Although the Committee has found that the above reasons were relied upon by the Director General not to provide a detailed written briefing to the Minister, the Committee itself does not believe these reasons to be adequate. The Director General should have sought clarification from either the CCC or the State Solicitor’s Office as to his ability to disclose the draft CCC Report to the Minister. The Committee also notes that any issue to do with a CCC inquiry into a public sector agency’s complaints management process, particularly where allegations of sexual misconduct of staff against children are involved, should have alerted the Director General to the fact that the issue was of such importance to the Minister’s portfolio that the Minister should have received a full written briefing on the CCC inquiry at the earliest opportunity.
COMMITTEE FINDING 4
The MIR of Mr Albert Huts, Executive Director, Human Resources, DET, was first raised by Mr Paul Albert, the Director General of DET, in the course of a discussion between the Director General and Mr Huts on 15 October 2006. Refer to paragraphs 14.1 to 14.6 in this Report.
5 Following the meeting on 15 October 2006 between the Minister and the DET staff, Mr Paul Albert formed the view that it was no longer tenable for Mr Albert Huts to retain responsibility for the CMU. Mr Albert and Mr Huts discussed a MIR as one option available to Mr Huts and Mr Huts subsequently accepted the offer of a MIR.
COMMITTEE FINDING 5
The MIR of Mr Paul Albert, the Director General of DET, was first raised in a discussion between the Premier and the Director General on 16 October 2006. Refer to paragraphs 15.1 to 15.5 of this Report.
6 At a meeting between Mr Paul Albert and the Premier on 16 October 2006, the contents of the CCC Report were discussed. The meeting concluded that it was in the best interests of public confidence in the government school system that Mr Albert should accept a MIR. Mr Albert subsequently accepted the offer of a MIR.
COMMITTEE FINDING 6
Two staff members of the Office of the Minister saw the CCC’s media statement of 1 June 2006, as well as various news summaries in relation to the CCC media statement. The evidence is that no staff member brought the CCC media statement of 1 June 2006 directly to the Minister’s attention.
7 The evidence clearly shows that both Ms Michelle White, former Media Adviser to the Minister, and Mr Lance McMahon, Policy Officer, received the CCC media statement of 1 June 2006 from the Government Media Office on the afternoon of 1 June 2006. Ms White stated that she spoke about the CCC media statement to various other identified staff of the Office of the Minister, but all of these identified staff members have no recollection of speaking to Ms White either in relation to the CCC media statement or the CCC inquiry generally. The Committee notes Mr McMahon’s acknowledgment that he may have been “lax in reading the full transcript … [and consequently, he] … did not refer it to the minister.”
8 The Minister was therefore incorrect in her answer to Question Without Notice 892 on 18 October 2006, where Hon Ray Halligan MLC asked the Minister the following:
9 The Minister replied (and to a subsequent interjection) as follows:
“The Corruption and Crime Commission released a media statement on 1 June 2006 stating that the commission planned to table a report in Parliament later this year on the important issue of sexual misconduct towards students. When did members of the minister’s office or her department advise her of that media statement?”
COMMITTEE FINDING 7
“I assume that that was a media statement by the Corruption and Crime Commission that it would table a report. I must say that no officer in my office advised me that there would be a tabling of a report.
Hon Ray Halligan: Did they advise the minister of the media statement about the report?
Hon LJILJANNA RAVLICH: Clearly, no member of my staff or I was aware of that media statement.”
The majority of the Committee (Hon Norman Moore and Hon Giz Watson) finds that it is probable that Mr Paul Albert, the Director General of DET, verbally advised the Minister of the CCC inquiry and subsequent draft CCC Report on at least three separate occasions, being:
a) at the MCEETYA conference on 7 July 2006;
b) at a meeting at the Minister’s Office on 2 August 2006; and
c) at a meeting at the Minister’s Office on 3 October 2006.
The minority of the Committee (Hon Graham Giffard MLC) finds that the available evidence does not support the majority finding that Mr Paul Albert advised the Minister that the CCC was conducting a formal inquiry into the DET’s handling of the sexual misconduct allegations against staff and would be tabling a report in Parliament.
10 The majority of the Committee is of the view that three of the four specific conversations that Mr Albert states that he had with the Minister about the CCC inquiry and draft CCC Report have been sufficiently corroborated. The Committee notes that Mr Albert’s statements to the Minister at the MCEETYA meeting may not have provided enough information for her to appreciate the seriousness of the issue. The Committee finds, however, that the evidence of Mr Albert as to the questions asked by the Minister of him at both the 2 August 2006 and the 3 October 2006 meetings indicates that the Minister had an understanding of the nature of the issue.
11 The minority of the committee (Hon Graham Giffard MLC) notes that too much of Mr Albert’s evidence was either disputed by other witnesses or inconsistent in material respects with the evidence of other witnesses. For these reasons Mr Albert’s evidence cannot be relied upon or preferred to the evidence of the Minister or those witnesses whose evidence clearly indicated that the Minister had no knowledge of the CCC Report until she was briefed by CCC officers on 12 October 2006.
12 The minority of the Committee (Hon Graham Giffard MLC) is of the view that Mr Albert’s evidence of his statements to the Minister at the MCEETYA meeting, even if it is accepted that they had been made (which is not accepted by the minority), were likely to have been too general and vague to have been clearly understood by the Minister. The corroborating evidence of Ms O’Neill cannot be relied upon. She had read the CCC Report while travelling to the MCEETYA meeting. If some general and vague comment were made by Mr Albert to the Minister then Ms O’Neill, given her detailed knowledge of the matter, would have a clear understanding of these comments whereas the Minister had no such knowledge. If Mr Albert had made clear to the Minister that the CCC was intending to table a adverse report about her department, the Minister would have demanded a full briefing on the matter from Mr Albert.
13 The minority of the Committee (Hon Graham Giffard MLC) notes that in relation to the Ministerial briefing on 2 August 2006, although it is accepted that a brief and informal exchange occurred between Mr Albert and the Minister in the corridor of the Ministerial Office after the meeting, that Mr Albert’s evidence is either contradicted or otherwise not supported by others who attended the meeting, including the Minister, Mr Klarich, Ms Rinaldi, Mr McCaffery, Ms Hasleby and Ms Cook. The evidence of Ms White, who claimed she overheard Mr Albert speaking to an unidentified person outside her office following the meeting, does not in any way corroborate Mr Albert’s assertion that he told the Minister of the CCC Report.
14 The minority of the committee (Hon Graham Giffard MLC) also finds that Mr Albert drew the committee’s attention to a 3 October 2006 ministerial briefing, in which he asserted that he advised the Minister of the CCC Report, only after he had suffered adverse media comment following giving evidence to the Committee on the first occasion. It was after this, and during giving evidence to the Committee for the second time, that he alerted the Committee to two other witnesses who could corroborate his claims in relation to the 3 October 2006 meeting. Again the evidence of these witnesses was contradicted by another witness who attended that same meeting and did not support Mr Albert’s evidence in critical respects, including his claim that the CCC report into sexual contact had been discussed with the Minister at the meeting.
COMMITTEE FINDING 8
The Minister’s immediate decision to implement all of the recommendations of the CCC Report at her briefing by CCC officers on 12 October 2006 committed her to a course of action before she had the benefit of obtaining all relevant information, including reading the full report and obtaining a briefing from the DET and the State Solicitor’s Office.
15 The Minister determined to implement the recommendations of the CCC Report because her “confidence was not with” the DET. She made this decision without first testing those recommendations against the expert advice of the State Solicitor’s Office and her departmental officers who held the view that the CCC Report contained serious flaws.
16 Recommendations are grouped as they appear in the text at the page number indicated:
Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia provide courtesy copies of its annual report to the offices of any Ministers whose portfolio may be affected by any ongoing investigation or proposed report mentioned in the annual report.
Recommendation 2: The Committee recommends that the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia ensure that a courtesy copy of any media statements that it issues be provided to the Office of any Minister whose portfolio may be affected by the contents of the media statement.
Recommendation 3: The Committee recommends that the Legislative Council refer all matters relating to the respective procedures and processes of, and interaction between, the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia and the Complaints Management Unit of the Department of Education and Training between June 2005 and October 2006 to the Public Administration Committee for inquiry and report, so as to establish the causes of the significant breakdown in the relationship between those two agencies and the subsequent re-structuring of the Complaints Management Unit.
Recommendation 4: The Committee recommends that the Government clarify, through legal advice and/or legislative amendment, the anti-disclosure provisions of the Corruption and Crime Commission Act 2003 so as to enable public sector chief executive officers to be able to freely discuss with their Ministers all matters relevant to the Minister’s portfolio.