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Working Class Whistler  

Working Class Whistler

  key informatioin contained in M

  Diary of a whistle-blower

               

             Searching for the Public Interest Disclosure 

                                               

                                            after                                                

   Mr Seeney and Mr Springborg lost their positions when        an election saw the ALP voted into the Queensland                               Government on 31 January 2015.

 

                    The new Premier                                              The new Minister for Health

                        Annastacia Palaszczuk                                                                     Cameron Dick   

 

                                                                                                   The ALP Member for Sandgate 

                                                                                                                                     Stirling Hinchliffe

 

I pursued the suppression of Public Interest Disclosure with the new Government.

 

On 18 February 2015 I emailed Mr C Dick, at his electorate office for his personal attention, attaching the PID:

“…you might remember when you were the Attorney-General how I unsuccessfully attempted to have a transparent review of 26 specific items of concern, raised on my behalf by the Qld Ombudsman with the Queensland Health Director-General, which clearly were not acknowledged, or responded to…Mr L Springborg, accepted the very same erroneous and unverified advice from the Health Department, as was previously accepted by the then Minister for Health Mr P Lucas, that in his response to the Ombudsman Dr J Youngman had addressed the Ombudsman's 26 items of concerns. On 8 July 2014 I submitted a Public Interest Disclosure (PID) to then Deputy Premier, the Hon Jeff Seeney, to convey my deep concerns that, due to an existing conflict of interest, the Queensland Health (QH) culture of secrecy discovered by the Bundaberg Commission is thriving because supposedly independent investigations into probable misconduct within the QH Administration, by independent investigative bodies, are fully and unconditionally reliant upon the findings of QH internal investigations…Dr Youngman did not acknowledge the Ombudsman’s list and most definitely did not address any one of the 26 items of concern listed…Mr Seeney refused to acknowledge or respond to the PID…I believed my Public Interest Disclosure would finally prompt the Government into taking action against the existing QH culture of secrecy…it was made possible for each and every individual involved with my concerns to discard the content of Dr Youngman's letter; to unitedly claim Dr Youngman had addressed the Ombudsman's concerns...the Chief Chief of Staff to Mr Springborg, the Minister for Health, Jake Smith wrote: ‘…I am advised that the issues in the Queensland Ombudsman’s ‘Extract of Complaint’ were addressed by Dr John Youngman, former General Manager…the Minister does not consider an independent review of your concerns necessary…Should you require any further information in relation to this matter, the Minister has arranged for Ms Alexis Stephens, Acting Director, Workplace Services, System Support Services Division, Queensland Health….to be able to assist you I emailed Ms Stephens: ‘…The 26 items of concern raised by the Ombudsman…were completely ignored by the General Manager, Dr John Youngman in his letter of response dated 4 April 2001. Items 13-26 related to Ms Mason's letter of 25 May 1998 and its erroneous content…’ On 9 June 2013 Ms Stephens responded: ‘…it was not the Minister’s intention that further information should be gathered or that I provide you with additional information regarding your concerns…’… My request on 13 October 2014 asking the Deputy Premier to update me on the status of my PID submission is still being ignored. It is statistically impossible for every individual involved, in determining the truth contained in the documents confirming the discrimination, to individually, and collectively, omit the irrefutable existence of Ms Mason's erroneous information to me in her letter dated 25 May 1998. It is far more probable that the suppression of this undeniable information, upon which the ADCQ accepted my discrimination complaint, was orchestrated by QH at the highest levels…Thanking you"

On 20 February 2015 I sent a chain email to all Liberal-National members of the now opposition government, excepting Mr J Seeney and Mr L Springborg for having previously ignored the concerns subsequently raised in my PID, hoping some Members might take the time to ask Mr Seeney what became of the PID.

Many Members did not respond; a few advised I should write to the now Minister for Health, Mr C Dick, and others apologized that they could not assist because I was not in their electorate.


I remain very thankful to those Members who were proactive: 


One Member referred the email to the Minister for Health.

One Member referred the email to Mr Seeney; requesting he clarify his actions upon receipt of the PID.

Two Members forwarded my email to my local (ALP) Member of Parliament, Mr Stirling Hinchliffe.

Right to Information (RTI), formerly known as Freedom of Information (FOI), later confirmed that, behind the scene, the Queensland Health Executive Support Office of the Director-General had received the chain email and forwarded it to the Department of Human Resources in order to write a Ministerial Brief (ref:MI202107) for  the preparation of a response from Mr C Dick, the Minister for Health.

Four weeks later, without word from Mr Dick, I followed up the referrals made of my email chain to Mr S Hinchliffe, my local Member of Parliament:

 Mr Hinchliffe disregarded my request:

 I reiterated my request to Mr Hinchliffe:

 Uncertain Mr Hinchliffe was going to respond I contacted Mr Seeney:

Mr Seeney finally acknowledged his receipt of the PID, confirming he referred it to the then Minister for Health, Mr L Springborg:

 

Whilst awaiting a response from Mr Dick, the current Minister for Health, I followed up Mr Seeney's referral of the PID with the previous Health Minister, Mr L Springborg:

 

Having been consistently ignored by Mr Springborg during his time as Health Minister I was doubtful he would respond so, again, I asked for support from my local representative, Mr S Hinchliffe:

 

Whilst awaiting responses from Mr Dick, Mr Springborg and Mr Hichliffe, the documents later released to me through Right to Information (RTI) showed Queensland Health, at that point in time, had labelled my concerns NRR (No Response Required).


The following document ref: MI203117 (different from the ref:MI202107 requesting the Ministerial brief on 2 March 2015) demonstrates Queensland Health's reaction to my email chain, regarding the buried PID, which had bee referred by the LNP Member for Whitsunday. 

The later RTI release of the Ministerial brief (ref:MI202107) requested by the Executive Support Office on 2 March 2015, in response to the email chain, shows that when it was authored on 18 March 2015 it notably suppressed the PID and advised the Health Minister not to respond:

The second page of the brief revealed it had been authored on 18 March 2015 by Ms Alexis Stephens who, on 9 June 2013, refused to provide the assistance offered by the previous Minister for Health, Mr L Springborg, with regard to the Ombudsman's concerns which, I advised her, had not been addressed by Dr J Youngman in his letter dated 4 April 2001.


Ms Stephens discarded the Public Interest Disclosure attached to my email chain which, she surely sighted and identified, disclosed the Queensland Health cover-up of Dr Youngman's suppression of 26 items of concern raised with the Director-General in 2001, by the Queensland Ombudsman.


A definite conflict of interest existed when Ms Stephens, who refused to address the Ombudsman's concerns in 2013, was later in the position to create a Ministerial brief which suppressed the PID regarding Queensland Health's cover-up of Dr Youngman's dismissal of each and every one of those concerns. 


Ms Stephens 'NRR' recommendation to the succeeding Minister for Health, Mr C Dick, was not based upon the content of the PID or my alleged suppression of the PID because, just as the Ombudsman's concerns had been suppressed by Queensland Health, so too had my concerns about the burial of my PID.

 Page two of the brief MI202107:

The Minister signed the two prepared letters without questioning why my PID had not been addressed.

To date the only acknowledgement of the existence my PID, albeit nine months late, had come from Mr Seeney.

It appeared Mr Hinchliffe was also reticent about acknowledging the PID, and finding out what became of it since Mr Seeney referred it to Mr Springborg in 2014

 

I was unaware of the conflict of interest created by Ms A Stephens ongoing involvement when, again by-passing Queensland Health, writing directly to the electorate office of the Health Minister:

Sadly my request was referred by Mr Dick to the same Queensland Health administrators who had, for the past three months, successfully maintained the secrecy surrounding the PID.

RTI documents demonstrate that Ms Alexis Stephens was indeed involved with this further inquiry MI20372:

My resignation appeared to be of more concern for the creators of the new brief MI203572, than  Springborg's alleged burial of the PID.


Authored on 29 May 2015 the brief created in response to my email dated 7 May 2015, completely ignored my concerns regarding the inaction of the Minister for Health upon receipt of my PID, in 2014, and my specific request for Mr Dick to inquire what actions were actually taken by Queensland Health, in 2014, following the Deputy Premier's referral of the PID:

A month had passed since writing to Mr Dick without effect so I again asked Mr Hinchliffe for his support:

 

Mr Hinchliffe remained detached from my concerns regarding the suppression of the PID:

 

Concerned with the complete lack of response to the PID, on 9 June 2015 I replied to Mr Hinchliffe:

“In his letter dated 6 May 2015, the Hon Cameron Dick accepted advice from his Department that the 2006 Workplace Investigation Unit’s review initiated by then Minister for Health, Mr S Robertson, (previously accepted by Mr S Robertson in 2006, and by the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health, Mr Murray Watt MP, in 2010) had found my concerns regarding the erroneous content of Ms Mason’s letter to me dated 25 May 1998, were not substantiated. Ms Mason‘s letter dated 25 May 1998 stated: ‘Further to our previous conversation, I have made enquiries into your need of protective footwear whilst on duty due to your disabilities. The Department of Workplace Health and Safety have indicated to me that you are required to wear…’…the Workplace Investigations Unit Manager, Mr M Brady wrote on 11 September 2006: ‘...in relation to the issue of your footwear…You claim Ms Mason stated to the Commission that she had contacted the Department of Workplace Health and Safety…Ms Mason did not state to you that she had communicated to the Department of Workplace Health and safety specifically about your issues...’ The Health Minister Mr C Dick added in his letter dated 6 May 2015 that from the information provided (I presume from his Department) he is satisfied my concerns have been properly addressed by Queensland Health and a number of external bodies. As his predecessors had done before him, Mr Dick has allowed himself to be persuaded by his Department to unconditionally accept unsound information and advice from a Department well known for its established culture of secrecy, which absolutely wants to keep the long-standing cover-up of Ms Mason’s erroneous claim deeply buried. Therein lies my dilemma. I can only ask again that you please represent me and find out where my Public Interest Disclosure, disclosing the truth about the content of Ms Mason’s letter dated 25 May 1998, has been buried. I wish to add that I am not interested in seeking legal representation.

 Mr Hinchliffe ignored my email.

During the past four months since writing to Mr Dick, and sending out the email chain, the only confirmation of the very existence of the PID had come from Mr Seeney.


It appeared Mr Springborg was free to discount his actions following Mr Seeney's referral of the PID.

I sent a further email to Mr Dick's electorate office, attaching a similar letter to that sent on 18 February which 

had not been acknowledged:

 The enclosed letter of 25 June 2015:

“My reason for submitting a Public Interest Disclosure in 2014 was because…Queensland Health is fully protected from accountability for evidence proving misconduct, or from accounting for the full licence it has to covertly remove inconvenient evidence from investigations into misconduct, by the external bodies of the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland, the Queensland Ombudsman and the CMC, who refer complaints of misconduct directly back to Queensland Health for self-investigation, where a conflict of interest exists…The fact Queensland Health buried the PID is testament to the fact the Department of Health and the Office of the Deputy Premier…are immune to the provisions of the Public Disclosure Act for whistle blowers…My reason to writing to you personally is because the advice you received from the Department,…was absolutely false.

The advice provided to you, that an independent unit within Queensland Health reviewed my concerns in 2006 is also false; the allegations I had raised with the then Minister for Health, Mr Stephen Robertson, could be substantiated.

My key complaint of discrimination to the ADCQ was that after having been notified by the rheumatology Department of severe deformities in my feet and of CN Clench’s objection to the hospital footwear required to correct the deformities, Ms Mason forced me to resign my nursing position because she would not revoke her false claim, which I believed to be true, in her letter dated 25 May 1998:

'Further to our previous conversation, I have made enquiries into your need of protective footwear whilst on duty due to your disabilities. The Department of Workplace Health and Safety have indicated to me that you are required to wear suitable protective footwear in a clinical work environment (I believe that means enclosed, non-slip shoes). Can you please make arrangements to have shoes that comply with this requirement...If you can’t manage this, can you please inform me as soon as possible and I will need to seek advice and possibly refer the matter on.'

Ms Mason’s response to the ADCQ Commissioner was:

‘… I reviewed the protective footwear...on a casual basis only with...WPHS...I did not refer specifically to the situation with Ms Hollywood’s sandals or her disability...On 25 May 1998…I reiterated that Ms Hollywood needed to have suitable footwear…’ 

The District Manager, Dr J Menzies, responded to the Commissioner:

'...the DoN formally raised Ms Hollywood’s stated footwear needs with the Herston-based Workplace Health and Safety unit in early June...'… Dr Menzies statements had confirmed my claim that Ms Mason’s claim, in her letter dated 25 May 1998, was erroneous…

...on 14 March 2001 the Ombudsman, Mr King, provided the QH Director-General, Dr R Stable, with a document he titled “EXTRACT OF COMPLAINT: MS P HOLLYWOOD” in which he listed 26 items of concern to be closely examined. Key concerns were:

‘…Ms Mason was persuaded by Ms Clench to ban the further use of my corrective sandals in the workplace, each were aware of the incapacitation this would cause me. Two months later, on 25/5/98 when Ms Mason claimed in a letter to me that she had made specific inquiries with WPHS about my need of protective footwear whilst on duty due to my disabilities, she in fact had not. When Ms Mason claimed in that same letter that WPHS had indicated that I could no longer wear my corrective sandals, they in fact had not been involved in any discussions about my footwear requirements due to my disability.

Dr J Youngman, the General Health Manager, who responded on behalf of the Director-General, refused to address Ms Mason’s letter dated 25 May 1998, or acknowledge any of the 26 items of concern raised by the Ombudsman.

On 24 February Mr M Schafer from the Queensland Health Audit and Operational Review Branch, responded to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC):

‘…Ms Mason does not claim in her submission to the Commission that she contacted the ‘Department of WPHS…'Mr Schafer confirmed to the CMC that Ms Mason had withheld her erroneous claim from the ADCQ CommissionerThe 2006 independent Unit advised to you, was the Workplace Investigations Unit...’Ms Mason…wrote to you on 25 May 1998Ms Mason did not state to you that she had communicated to the Department of Workplace Health and safety specifically about your issues...when Ms Mason wrote to you on 25 May 1998 about your footwear...’…Ms Mason did erroneously state it to me in her letter, dated 25 May 1998, and, as…Audit confirmed to the CMC, she withheld that erroneous statement from the ADCQ Commissioner. Queensland Health have gone to great lengths to cover up that fact, and to cover up FOI evidence confirming the covert possession of my personnel file, by Ms Mason, during the course of the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland’s investigation in 1999, and the FOI retrieval of pertinent documents from Ms Mason’s personal possession, which contained information she withheld from her response to the ADCQ Commissioner. Mr S Donovan, Human Resource Manager, confirmed in his letter dated 14 April 2000:

‘Your personnel file was marked out to the DON, Keperra Hospital from April 1999 to February 2000.’

A later FOI request confirmed the covert movement of my personnel file:

‘…searches included a search of the register that is held at the front counter of HR Operations, Herston…where authorized external persons who require access to an employee’s personnel file sign. No record of your file being signed out to Ms K Mason was identified within this register. A ‘tracer card’ is located on every employee’s personnel file and this card records details of when the personnel file has been signed out to a particular officer within QH. A search of the tracer card on your personnel file…no records of your personnel file being signed out to Ms K Mason could be located…I am unable to confirm with Shane Donovan how he was aware that Ms Mason had your ‘personal file’ for that specific period'

On 11 August 2006 the then Minister for Health, Mr S Robertson wrote to me:

'…about your concerns of file tampering…you alleged that Ms Mason had intentionally removed documentation from your personnel file which indicated that she had knowledge of your foot condition prior to making the decision to transfer you to Keperra Hospital (i.e. Documents which may have supported your complaint to the Commission). Based on your advice and the documents you provided, it appeared that your belief that Ms Mason had removed these documents from your personnel file stemmed from when you submitted a Freedom of Information application…and your being advised that additional documents (namely letters you had sent Ms Mason and a letter from the Rheumatology Department), which were not on your personnel file, had been located in Ms Mason’s office. It should be noted that the fact these documents were located in Ms Mason’s office does not explicitly indicate they were removed from your personnel file...

The FOI retrieved letters, including that from the rheumatology Department, contained information which directly conflicted with the false information provided to the ADCQ Commissioner by Ms Mason.

When you held the position of Attorney-General, you wrote to me 1st December 2010:

“Page two of your letter asks whether the Attorney-General ‘…would be prepared to ask the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mr M Watt MP and the Minister for Health, Mr Paul Lucas why they both refuse to disclose the outcome of a QH investigation instigated in 2008 by the then Health Minister Mr S Robertson, into the Director-General’s refusal to explain why the 26 items of concern raised by the Ombudsman with his office have never been addressed?’ Given the nature of your letter, I have sent a copy of your letter and this reply to the Honourable Paul Lucas MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Health, for his consideration.”

Your referral was ignored.

There is a definite culture of secrecy...The Department would prefer to cover up evidence confirming it is not an equal opportunity employer, than to tackle the bullying which takes place in the workplace.

Not one QH officer addressed or questioned Ms Mason’s erroneous directive for me to make alternative footwear arrangements, or her reason for not revoking it as an alternative to processing my resignation…due to the incapacity rendered without my prescribed footwear…the Ombudsman and the CMC edited my complaint to completely delete all mention of the file tampering, which protected Dr J Youngman and Mr M Schafer from addressing the FOI evidence…if you send this letter to the Department…it will be buried alongside my PID. I sincerely hope you respond to my letter.

                

                     .........................................................................................................................................

 

The later RTI released documents showed Queensland Health continued to segregate my expressed concerns, regarding the suppression of my PID, from their main concern, which appeared to regard my resignation:

 

The resulting brief did not reference the letter received by Mr Dick on 25 June 2015, or the Queensland Health burial of the PID, in 2014.

The brief MI203572 advised the same as the identical brief MI203572, authored on 29 May 2015; CAS, the Department responsible for handling PID's found that the subject matter of my PID did not meet with the definition of a PID.

Given my concerns, regarding the total lack of response to my PID, and the requirements under the PID Act, to keep disclosers informed; I believe it would have been ethical for the Minister, and CAS, to inform me of the finding.

As I was not informed I still have no explanation as to why my PID has never been acknowledged or responded to. 


According to the PID Act 2010, and advice received from the Office of the Premier in 2014:

(1) As a member of public I could submit my PID to Mr Seeney who was a proper authority to receive a it.


(2) Members of Parliament are proper authorities to receive PIDs and, under s.34 of the PID Act, an MP may           refer a PID to another public sector entity if the member considers the referral entity has powers to                   investigate or remedy the matter.


(3) After receiving a PID, the public sector entity has a responsibility to provide the discloser with reasonable       information about the disclosure. The entity should confirm the receipt of the PID and inform the discloser       of the action taken or proposed to be taken.

 

(4) If the entity believes no action is required the discloser is entitled to be informed of the reasons for that          decision.

 

(5) If the matter is not a PID the entity should consider whether the organisation still needs to take action on        the information provided, or whether there are other available reporting avenues.


Following the assessment of the PID Ms Alexis Stephens and her colleagues failed to take into consideration that, in accordance with the PID Act, Queensland Health was surely required to finally acknowledge the PID and inform me:

 
(1) Their receipt of the PID.


(2) Whether or not my PID met with the definition of a PID.


(3) If my PID did not meet the definition of a PID; whether or not the content was important.


(4) The reason for their decision not to investigate. 

Because my letters were being ignored I made the applications to Right to Information to determine what had become of the PID in 2014, and why it wasn't responded to, and why, in 2015, my concerns regarding the suppression of the PID were not being acknowledged.

On 5 February 2016 the Office of the Information Commissioner confirmed:

(1) My PID and the follow up email, sent to Mr Seeney in 2014, had been located in the emails of both the              former Deputy Premier and former Minister for Health,

(2) No record of the referral could be located.

(3) No responses to the PID were located. 

(4) The Commissioner advised a referral of a PID was likely to be formally notified in hard copy and kept for a       minimum of two years - No hard copy was located:

The Commissioner's confirmation that the Minister for Health had received my PID, and had not responded as required by the PID Act, gave some hope that Mr Hinchliffe might finally agree to represent me.

Nine months following my last letter I advised him of the Information Commissioner's findings:

Mr Hinchliffe ignored me so I wrote to the Queensland Premier: 

Without acknowledging my concerns regarding the Queensland Health burial of my PID, the Premier advised I follow the previous advice received from the Health Minister; to seek legal advice:

I responded to the Premier:

 The Premier failed to answer so I again requested representation from my local MP, Mr Hinchliffe:

 Mr Hinchliffe failed to respond.

Mr Springborg had received the Public Interest Disclosure when Minister for Health and, no doubt, in the event the Department received another embarrassing disclosure it would not not only be ignored, it would be made to completely disappear.

The Queensland Health cover-up of the discrimination remains firmly intact because Queensland Health lines of inquiry had, strategically, disregarded the content of correspondence which distinctly confirms the information, provided by Ms Mason to the ADCQ Commissioner, directly conflicted with the information she had provided to me during the progression of her eight month discrimination attack.