Qld to set up new Public Trustee board
A new board will oversee Queensland's Public Trustee after it was accused of charging vulnerable people exorbitant fees without their knowledge.
The Public Trustee Advisory and Monitoring Board will be appointed after a new law was passed in state parliament on Wednesday night.
The board will monitor and review how the financial administrator deals with complaints, particularly those made by mentally impaired clients.
"We have said this before and we will say it again - protecting vulnerable Queenslanders is a priority for this government," Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said in a statement.
"The new Public Trustee Advisory and Monitoring Board will enhance transparency and public accountability of the services provided by the Public Trustee."
The board will also make recommendations to the minister and the Public Trustee for legal changes and improvements.
"This will ensure that strong protections stay in place for clients," Ms Fentiman said.
The Liberal National Party opposition tried to move amendments to give the new board power to issue directions, rather than make recommendations.
LNP MP Lachlan Millar said the new law allows board recommendations to be "buried" and that the board would be made up of departmental heads beholden to the government of the day.
"At this point, I have to say that the bill seems very close to pointless," he told parliament on Wednesday.
"I cannot see how we will be able to act with any independence or power, so nothing really has changed."
Greens MP Michael Berkman tried unsuccessfully to move an amendment to overhaul the Public Trustee in line with the 2021 recommendations made by the Public Advocate.
He said the government's bill only addressed one out of the 32 recommendations made in that report.
"Overhauling the Public Trustee needs serious attention, and I'm concerned that once it drops out of the news cycle reform will be forgotten," the Maiwar MP said in a statement.
Mr Berkman said the Public Trustee should not be run for profit and should be appointed only as a last resort.
"No member of parliament would accept the undignified and humiliating treatment that some clients of the Public Trustee have suffered," he said.
"I've heard too many stories from my constituents about downright exploitation and financial abuses, so we need some urgent action."
Earlier this year, the ABC Four Corners program aired allegations that people with impaired mental capacity due to dementia, brain injuries or intellectual disabilities were being charged huge fees, often without their knowledge.
There had been serious concerns about the practices of the Public Trustee for more than a year.