Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2010) . . Page.. 5918 ..
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Health and Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.42): The government will not be supporting this motion today, and I will go through the reasons why in my address. The investigation into the allegations of bullying and harassment in the women’s and children’s obstetrics and gynaecology unit at the Canberra Hospital was carried out under the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act. The Public Interest Disclosure Act provides an avenue for persons to make public interest disclosures without fear or reprisals. Accordingly, it provides, on the one hand, protection to encourage persons to make public interest disclosures and, on the other hand, penalties for those who engage in reprisals.
Section 33 of that act prohibits a public official from disclosing to another person confidential information gained through the administration of the act. Confidential information includes information about the identity, occupation or whereabouts of a person who has made a public interest disclosure or against whom a public interest disclosure has been made; information contained in the public interest disclosure; information concerning an individual’s personal affairs; and information, if disclosed, that may cause detriment to a person.
The only parties who can be advised as to the outcomes of any investigation that has been conducted under the act are ACT Health and the persons who have made the public interest disclosures. Any public official employed by ACT Health, who has been involved in the investigation, is precluded by the operation of section 33 of the act from disclosing to another person confidential information that has been gained through that official’s involvement in the investigation.
Accordingly, health officials who were involved in the investigation of this matter are not permitted to disclose any information about the matters under investigation or the conclusions reached in the investigation to any third parties, and that includes the minister. A general summary statement that does not contain any confidential information has been provided to me and to those who were directly involved with the investigation. The investigation report itself will not be provided to any third party.
ACT Health at all times observed the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act and provided appropriate information about the finalisation of the investigations to all persons who make public interest disclosures. This would be the first public interest disclosure that I am aware of where a media release would have been issued to say that a process has been completed. I cannot think of any other public interest disclosure where information of that sort has been made available to the community.
In terms of the advice I can provide the Assembly, it is essentially a summary statement. This information can be provided. The investigation into the allegations of bullying and harassment within the O&G department is now complete. The terms of reference of the investigation were for the investigation to identify any incidences of conduct that could be considered as bullying and harassment in the O&G unit at the Canberra Hospital between 2006 and 2010, and, if these existed, to further identify their circumstances including possible causes.
The investigation was carried out under the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, and this act, in particular section 33, prohibits a public official