Anglicare Sydney’s CEO was subpoenaed in March after refusing to attend a parliamentary inquiry. In fact he refused three times, it has now emerged. The former tax haven specialist also claimed he could not attend because he was busy, unsuccessfully sought to give all his evidence in secret, and even asked the committee to send him its questions in writing. Anthony Klan reports.
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The aged care boss responsible for the Newmarch House Covid-19 tragedy refused three requests to attend a NSW parliamentary inquiry into aged care, including because he had “other commitments”.
Anglicare Sydney CEO Grant Millard also unsuccessfully sought to have his entire appearance conducted in secret and engaged a partner of law firm MinterEllison to represent him in his dealings with the inquiry, it has emerged.
More light has been shed on the saga by the NSW upper house inquiry into nurse staffing levels at aged care homes, which delivered its final report last week.
That inquiry also examined aspects of the Newmarch House tragedy, in which 19 residents died after Covid-19 swept through the facility last year in NSW’s worst cluster.
Newmarch House is owned and operated by the Anglican Church’s Anglicare Sydney.
In March The Sydney Morning Heraldrevealed that Anglicare boss Millard had been subpoenaed – legally forced to attend – the NSW inquiry after earlier “declining” an invitation to do so.
It has now emerged that Millard not only “declined” a first invitation to attend, he also rejected two more requests.
Anglicare CEO Grant Millard and MinterEllison partner Sarah Lark leave the March 29 hearing. Source: 7 News
The inquiry’s final report shows that Millard had first been contacted to attend a February 22 public hearing of the inquiry.
After he rejected that invitation, the inquiry sent him a “formal” letter, “reissuing the invitation to attend” the February 22 public hearing, with the letter “noting the committee’s power to issue a summons”.
That second approach was also rejected by Millard.
On February 17 the committee received from his lawyer, MinterEllison partner Sarah Lark.
That letter included “declining a further invitation to appear at the hearing on Monday 22 February 2021”, and “requesting that the committee send Anglicare Sydney written questions instead”.
The letter cited “potential prejudice to their interests in the current colonial inquest into Newmarch House following an outbreak of Covid-19”.
“The committee received further correspondence requesting that Mr Millard appear in camera for the entirety of his evidence and advising that he has other commitments on Monday 22 February 2021,” the report also says.
Given Millard’s purported unavailability on February 22, the inquiry then asked whether Millard would be instead available for a public hearing on March 29.
That was the third request.
On February 23 Millard’s lawyer responded that he “is available for a hearing on 29 March” but that he “declines the invitation” and that “if the committee wishes to hear from Anglicare, it should issue a summons”.
The inquiry issued Millard with a summons on March 24, forcing him, under threat of imprisonment, to attend at 10am on March 29.
Under questioning he admitted that Anglicare was slashing aged care jobs in a cost-cutting “restructure”. (It has since emerged that Anglicare is cutting at least 125 jobs to reduce its staff bill by $7m-$7.5m a year).
That was despite the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety finding the nation’s aged care system “is understaffed and the workforce underpaid and undertrained”.
It’s also despite the independent inquiry specifically into Newmarch House identifying low staffing levels and poor training as areas of serious concern.
Crying poor: Anglicare CEO Grant Millard. Source: The Klaxon.
Millard told the inquiry Anglicare did not want to make the cuts, but it was forced to in order to “stay viable” and “able to operate”.
Yet as revealed by The Klaxon, Anglicare Sydney is actually awash with cash, notching up record revenues, and is one of the nation’s richest organisations holding well over $2 billion in assets.
Anglicare Sydney received $233m in taxpayer funds last financial year.
Appearing at the inquiry on March 29 Millard, a trained corporate lawyer, said he had requested to be subpoenaed so as not to prejudice himself with regards to the Newmarch House coronial inquest.
However it was pointed out to Millard by the committee that – as is standard practice – the hearings were covered by parliamentary privilege, and as such it was not possible for him to prejudice himself by appearing.
Millard had asked the inquiry that he be “accompanied by and have reasonable opportunity to consult a legal advisor during the hearing”.
That request was granted and Millard attended the March 29 public hearing with MinterEllison partner and health law specialist Sarah Lark.
Millard’s Manor: “Deep in the tiny, landlocked European tax haven of Luxembourg a three-storey house sits on a leafy suburban street. In the front driveway is a modest grey hatchback…” Read the full story here.
Part of CICTAR’s report regarding Grant Millard. Source:CICTAR
Aged care is predominately a federal responsibility.
However some laws overlap and the NSW inquiry has called for NSW go it alone on some matters.
The final report of the separate Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was made public on March 1.
NSW aged care inquiry chair, MP Courtney Houssos. Source: 7 News.
Among its key recommendations, the Royal Commission has called on the Federal Government to set “required daily minimum staff time” for “registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers for each resident”.
It has called on changes to be made in two stages.
By 2022, 200 minutes of care per day would be provided to each resident, of which 40 minutes would be provided by registered nurses.
By 2024 that would be increased to 215 minutes of care per resident per day, of which 44 minutes are provided by registered nurses.
The Royal Commission also called for every aged care home to have at least one registered nurse on duty at all times, with that requirement to be implemented by 2024.
The NSW inquiry said 2024 was too far away and has called on the NSW Government to implement that nursing requirement as soon as possible.
The NSW inquiry said it was ok with the Royal Commission’s timeframe for the changes regarding minimum staff care times – of 2022 and 2024 – but that NSW should go it alone if the Federal Government fails to implement the changes.
The chair of the inquiry, NSW ALP MP Courtney Houssos, described the “shocking state of aged care” in the state.
“The inquiry revealed the shocking conditions faced by so many residents are getting worse, not better,” Ms Houssos said.
In July 2014 the Commonwealth Aged Care Act was changed, removing the distinction between “high care” and “low care” residents.
This caused a problem with the NSW law because a “nursing home” had been defined as one delivering a “high level of nursing care”.
The NSW law required nursing homes have a minimum number of nurses.
But since 2014, no new aged care facilities are required to meet that NSW requirement because they are not technically “nursing homes”.
The NSW bill is aimed at closing that loophole.
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