Queensland Public Trustee denies making profit from clients, despite report criticising high fees and charges
They might not make a profit in any accounting sense but they are a bloated bureaucracy with well-feathered nests for their bureaucrats
They are run for the benefit of their employees, not for those they are supposed to serve. They have been left basically unsupervised for far too long
People on disability support and aged care pensions with assets will continue to be charged up to 40 per cent of their low incomes for financial administration services by the Public Trustee of Queensland, despite a report criticising the practice.
Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman tabled the Public Advocate's report into the Public Trustee in state parliament earlier this month.
It documented high fees for asset-rich pensioners, fees for no service and charging multiple sets of fees on managing the same funds, like superannuation.
In response, the state government announced that a board would oversee the Public Trustee.
However, the government has not yet set a timeframe for when this would occur and what authority it would have.
The Public Advocate's report also exposed routine profiteering from cash assets that were funnelled exclusively into the Public Trustee's own investment products – something called the "interest differential".
"The practice of directing all client funds into Public Trustee investments also means that the Public Trustee earns income and fees additional to the general Asset Management Fees it charges clients for providing administration services," the report stated.
"This practice raises questions about whether the Public Trustee is fulfilling its fiduciary duties to avoid conflicts with its clients' interests and not to make unauthorised profits from clients."
The report found that in 2019-20 alone, the Public Trustee kept $12.9 million in interest earnings from the cash assets of clients.
"The conflicts inherent in this funding arrangement appear to be incompatible with the duties and obligations of a trustee and fiduciary to not profit from its clients and to avoid conflicts," it said.
Public Advocate Mary Burgess made 32 recommendations and in a statement responding to the report, Ms Fentiman said the majority of the recommendations were primarily the responsibility of the Public Trustee to implement.
One of the recommendations included changing the legislation to clarify when and how the Public Trustee could invest client funds.
Another was to ensure the Trustee does not profit from administration clients unless expressly permitted by law.
Ms Fentiman did not say whether the government would review its legislation to determine whether profit was permissible under the Public Trustee Act, and she denied the report's finding that the Public Trustee profits from financial administration services.
"A moratorium on fees and charges would impact on the Public Trustee's ability to provide important services to vulnerable Queenslanders," Ms Fentiman said.
She also said many of the reforms had already been implemented or were underway.
The Public Trustee said a review on fees and charges was already underway but would not be completed for another six to eight months.
The Public Trustee denied it made a profit.
Sue Nunn, who has a person close to her who has been under financial administration, said she was sickened by the way they had been treated.
Ms Nunn said her complaints and concerns about the Public Trustee had fallen on deaf ears.
The Guardianship and Administration Act prevents the ABC from disclosing anything that could identify a person under a financial administration order — something that critics said prevented them from speaking out.
The person Ms Nunn is advocating for is paying close to 40 per cent of a disability pension in Public Trustee fees for financial and asset management.
"They're taking 40 per cent of his income – how can you say that's not profiting from somebody with a disability?" Ms Nunn said.
She said she was disappointed by the response of the state government to the Public Advocate's report. "At what point do we matter?" Ms Nunn said. "How many people have to be gouged of their finances?
"How many people have to lose everything they have, before we become important, and before it's enough to say 'stop, things need to change'."
Ms Nunn said she had lost count of the number of complaints she had made to assorted government bodies and ministers, and in her view, Ms Fentiman had downplayed the extent of the issues in her response to the parliament.
Steven Collins is another person with multiple family members who either are, or have previously been, under financial administration.
Mr Collins said he had observed questionable financial decisions being made for a family member, including trying to sell their house for more than it had been valued.
He claimed the family member was moved into rental accommodation that was costing more per week than the mortgage repayments had been. The person was moved back into their house when it had not sold.
The same family member was being given just $100 a week to live on at one stage, once the Trustee had extracted its fees and charges.
"The way it looks to me from things that have happened is it's just about getting money at any cost and from any angle — it's not about the client," Mr Collins said.
Mr Collins said when he started advocating on his family members' behalf, and asking questions of the Public Trustee, they stopped responding. "The letter I got back from them was actually quite appalling — it was a generalised, bureaucratic letter, and it really didn't get into the heart of any of the questions I asked," Mr Collins said.
"From there, they really stopped talking to me and wouldn't communicate with me from then on out."
Shadow attorney-general Tim Nicholls is now calling for an independent audit of the Public Trustee, and for the legislation that governs it to be either rewritten or amended substantially.
"It's really the case that the report has been done, the government has looked at it, and then handed it to the Public Trustee and said, 'You solve your own problems'," he said.
"There's no clarity about the [fee] review and what the changes are likely to be. "The Public Trustee continues to milk those clients for every cent under a flawed system that sees the most disadvantaged people paying more and getting less."
Veteran Adelaide radio host Jeremy Cordeaux sacked over Brittany Higgins tirade
Must not question St. Brittany
Veteran radio broadcaster Jeremy Cordeaux, who called Brittany Higgins a “silly girl who got drunk” and questioned her story, has been sacked.
The award-winning host was branded a “dinosaur” online over the appalling comments on air on FIVEaa over the weekend about the alleged rape at Parliament House in 2019.
“I just ask myself why the prime minister doesn’t call it out for what it is. A silly little girl who got drunk,” Cordeaux said at 6.26am during his weekend breakfast show.
“If this girl has been raped, why hasn’t the guy who raped her been arrested? Apparently everyone knows his name.”
“Security, you know, should never have let these two into the minister’s office at two o’clock in the morning. Never,” Cordeaux said.
“The defence minister. Can you imagine security taking someone who was obviously drunk, so drunk I think that the young lady, during the week on television, said she couldn’t get her shoes on.
“My advice to the prime minister – as he was sort of monstered by A Current Affair – my advice would be to stop worrying about offending somebody.”
‘It feels very political’: Principals sorry schools rushed to sign plan to tackle consent
One of the state’s longest-serving independent school heads says a cross-sector “statement of intent” to improve consent education was driven by political expediency rather than a desire for change, and she wishes her sector had not signed it.
Several other principals privately agree with her, with one saying “it feels very political”.
The statement, which has been signed by the public, Catholic and independent sectors, commits all schools to taking “concrete actions” to strengthen their students’ ability to form healthy relationships and prevent harmful situations.
However, it does not include parents’ groups as signatories as originally proposed by the Association of Independent Schools NSW, which came up with the concept three weeks ago. Parents’ groups told the Herald they would have signed it.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the statement was intended to be signed by the three school sector heads individually, with further collaboration with other key groups to follow.
“While this is a whole-of-society challenge, the statement signed by the three education heads acknowledges the key role schools and teachers, in partnership with parents and parent organisations, will play in supporting change,” she said.
But Jenny Allum, who has led SCEGGS Darlinghurst since 1996, said while she supported the ideals articulated in the statement – which included hearing the voices of students and basing decisions on evidence – parents should have been signatories even if their involvement delayed the process.
“I am very sorry that we rushed to sign the statement of intent after it had been made clear that some parent groups would also like to sign the statement,” she said. “The signing of the statement in such a rushed fashion has more to do with political expediency than any desire to actually affect change.
“There is no quick fix here, no short-term critical incident to manage and wait for it to go away.
“A better course of action would have been to have a continued dialogue about consent and sexual coercion, as well as sexual assault and abuse, violence against women, gendered stereotypes, sexualisation of girls and women, and so on.”
Ms Allum said parents were the primary educators of their children, and so needed to be involved in conversations about respect, consent and violence towards women.
“Why was it important to sign something by yesterday afternoon, except that either the minister wanted it that way, or the [school] systems could look like they were doing something?” she said. “From what I can tell it’s relatively cosmetic. What practical solution does it offer?
“If you can’t name a practical solution, you’ve got to think it was political.”
Another principal, who did not want to be named, said the problem of sexual assault ran much deeper than students’ understanding of consent. “I don’t think [the statement] is the answer,” she said. “I don’t know how a statement of intent even begins to address it.”
Another said the document was “full of motherhood statements” but signing it did no harm and sent a positive message.
Julie Townsend, from St Catherine’s School, said it was appropriate for schools to work together. “Parents’ organisations can similarly unite with a common intent,” she said. “Both the school sectors and parent organisations can work side by side.”
Other principals, who also did not want to be named, said they would have preferred to wait for guidance from the Australian Human Rights Commission, which consulted with the sector at a roundtable on Friday.
They believe that a firm set of guidelines or recommendations from the commission, which has also helped the university sector and defence force, would be the most likely avenue to create lasting and meaningful change.
The AISNSW board voted to sign the statement after discussing it on Thursday night, AIS chief executive Geoff Newcombe said. “The board noted that this should be seen as a first step in dealing with what is a whole-of-society issue,” he said.
“The association also is currently in discussions with the NSW Parents Council so that we can recognise the critical role that parents will play in trying to resolve this problem.”
Muslim haters tracked down
A Queensland dog trainer and a Melbourne gemstone trader have been arrested as “senior players” of a sophisticated Australian terror network paying for foreign fighters to travel to Syria to join Jabhat al-Nusra.
Joint counterterrorism teams from Queensland and Victoria yesterday pounced on the men in co-ordinated raids, charging them over their alleged involvement in a sophisticated terrorist network being run out of southeast Queensland.
Gabriel Crazzi, 34, from Chambers Flat in Logan, and Ahmed Talib, 31, from Melbourne, are alleged to have been key players in the religiously-motivated extremist organisation.
The network is understood to have been responsible for funding Queensland man Ahmed Succarieh’s 2013 trip to Syria where he became Australia’s first suicide bomber.
The former schoolboy from south of Brisbane is believed to have blown himself up when he drove a truck loaded with explosives into a military checkpoint in Syria in September, 2013.
The explosion killed 35 people.
It will be alleged Crazzi and Talib developed networks in Australia, Turkey and Syria that helped Australians get into Syria to fight for Jabhat al-Nusra in 2012 and 2013.
Crazzi has been charged with seven foreign incursion related offences, while Talib is facing one charge.
Talib appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday and is facing extradition to Queensland.
Crazzi is due to appear before the Brisbane Magistrates Court today.
AFP Commander Stephen Dametto said the arrests were a culmination of the AFP, Queensland Police Service and ASIO working together to keep the community safe.
“Today is an example of our commitment to discourage Australians from fighting overseas and holding people to account for their involvement in supporting terrorism and terrorist organisations,” he said.
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