There is some dispute as to whether Emperor Nero was actually fiddling while Rome burned down around him.What is far more certain is that our health department is on fire and not a single politician has run for the hoses.
The unspeakable tragedy of the recent death of four infants in government care, is the latest disaster to emerge from this beleaguered department. It is a department that has been the subject of innumerable inquiries and investigations and, by enlarge, has ignored the findings of all of them over several years.
It is a department that is headed by a minister who professes to have no opinion about vital matters in his portfolio. A strategy that defines him as a man lacking the courage to state or even form his own opinions and by doing so thereby giving himself the room to say “my understanding is” suggesting that any blame to be found is nothing to do with him but those who give him his “understanding”.
Former US President Harry Truman popularised the phrase ”the buck stops here”. It means simply that the responsibility for something cannot or should not be passed to someone else. When you are a Minister of the Crown, the buck stops with you – whether you have an opinion or not.
Even apart from individual ministerial responsibility and the principle of collective responsibility of parliament in a parliamentary democracy, there is a clearly established duty of care owed by this government department to all who pay it to provide services to them. It’s not a difficult proposition – it simply means that this department through the minister, the government and the parliament has an obligation to avoid acts or omissions, which could reasonably be foreseen to injure or harm others. This means that you must anticipate risks for your clients and take care to prevent them coming to harm – whether that be physical, mental or emotional, or financial harm.
Given that this department has provided no discernible improvement in the agency’s culture since last year’s ICAC report, detailing a raft of concerns including the existence of a professional culture that enables corruption and issues which the ICAC Commissioner described as “across the board” and “at the more serious end of the spectrum”, isn’t that an alarm bell that the minister and the government should heed?
Yet this government under Mr Marshall’s leadership has stubbornly refused to acknowledge the dimensions of this debacle. It has refused to finance an investigation of the matters that it has been publicly warned about and has presided over an era where infants are now dying in hospitals that lack the necessary equipment to prevent tragedies from occurring.
Messrs Marshall and Wade, the public has had enough of this maladministration and wilful refusal to act. You may not be able to smell the smoke, but you will soon hear the bells.
They toll for you.