LNP’s Barrett Centre closure inquiry response was in bad taste

by admin on July 13th, 2018

filed under 南京夜网

John-Paul Langbroek described the Barrett Centre inquiry as a ‘witch hunt’. Photo: Glenn HuntWhich inquiry was a witch hunt?
Nanjing Night Net

“A political witch hunt.” That’s how Opposition health spokesman John Paul Langbroek described the commission of inquiry into the closure of the Barrett Centre for Adolescent Mental Health when the inquiry outcomes were announced last week.

It’s a remarkable call, given that it was made within hours of the release of the 665 page first volume of the report.  Even more remarkable when the second volume, for privacy reasons, has restricted circulation. How anyone could digest that volume of material, plus the transcripts of evidence, the submissions and tabled documents, and draw such a conclusion beggars belief.

Moreover such hyperbole represents a form of political discourse of which the public is heartily sick and tired.

It denigrates the dedicated work of the inquiry commissioner, whose meticulous analysis of the issue is a textbook on bureaucratic inertia, incompetence, confusion and stupidity.

It disrespects the families who fought long and hard for reasons is as to why their loved ones died.

It is also dismissive of a genuine public interest in a major area of policy – metal health.

How much better would it have been for the Opposition health spokesman to have affirmed the value of the commission’s work, its insights into the management of adolescent mental health, and to acknowledge that mistakes were made in the whole process of closure, and that both bureaucrats and their political masters were responsible for those?

Almost all of Commissioner Wilson’s public recommendations deal with issues of governance, management and administration.

Certainly the then Health Minister Lawrence Springborg was not well served by the Queensland Health bureaucracy. But his reputation as a safe pair of hands in a ministry blighted with butter fingered colleagues is no more.

Queensland Health is a bureaucracy with a long record of maladministration ranging from the Patel scandal, to the payroll brouhaha, to the premature opening of the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, to current issues in maternity care at the Rockhampton Base Hospital.

Reading the inquiry transcripts, the compassion of the commissioner towards families affected is evident. As a health practitioner himself one would have expected that the opposition spokesman would have exhibited greater empathy.

He could have said: “This comprehensive inquiry will be remembered for many years to come for the transparency it has provided and the spotlight it has placed on the need for: clear lines of accountability, good management practices and effective risk management”. Which is what his fellow frontbencher Ian Walker said of the Queensland Health Payroll Inquiry in 2013.

Both the coroner and the Public Service Commission have yet to have their say. It remains to be seen if a more enlightened attitude from the Opposition is apparent when health is on the agenda at Estimates this week.

Finally, given the stigma that still attaches to mental illness, and the damaging association in times past of mental illness with witchcraft and sorcery, to depict the inquiry as a “witch hunt” is in dubious taste.

Dr John Harrison is senior lecturer in the University of Queensland’s School of Communication and Arts.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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