Legislative Council: Tuesday, June 27, 2023


Public Trustee

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (15:01): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Attorney-General on the Public Trustee in South Australia.

Leave granted.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: Recently, the ABC reported grave concerns with the Public Trustee in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, regarding the potential overcharging of fees for vulnerable people, with one lady being charged up to $120 per week, a quarter of her pension, leaving just $100 a week as a living allowance.

When this lady attended the Queensland tribunal, the Public Trustee representative said her fees would be about $8 a month. Instead, she is paying 60 times that amount, totalling almost $500 per month. My questions to the Attorney-General, as the minister responsible for the Public Trustee, are:

1. Is the Attorney confident that South Australians whose finances are managed by the Public Trustee are not being overcharged?

2. Are there likely to be increases in the Public Trustee's fees and charges in the next financial year?

3. When did the Attorney last receive an update from the Public Trustee?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:02): I thank the honourable member for her questions in relation to the Public Trustee's fees. The Public Trustee charge fees as part of administering estates and also in the administration of protected persons' finances. The Public Trustee of South Australia has, in particular, several options that are able to financially assist customers with low asset values. Commissions and some fees are waived or reduced for the administration of estates with low values and certainly estates with assets valued under $5,500 as a general rule are automatically provided with a full fee waiver.

I certainly don't have any evidence of systemic overcharging, as I think the honourable member may have referred to as having been raised about interstate public trustees. Certainly, it is an area where people do raise concerns that are sent to me from time to time about the very specific questions about the administration of the finances of a person or the estate of a deceased person. I think there are members of this parliament who raise those with me on behalf of their constituents, as is entirely appropriate from time to time. When that happens, as a general rule I seek a briefing from the Public Trustee about the administration of that specific estate so I can respond to the people concerned.

My guess is the last time there was a question—and there would be a few of these every month—would have been some time in the last month a briefing about the administration of a specific estate that has generally come about as a result of a representation from someone to their member of parliament. Sometimes, it's questions such as, 'We wanted money for this outing or for a new bed,' or something of that sort, where the Public Trustee makes these financial decisions regularly about what can be afforded and how it's done. So in relation to specific estate administration, certainly within the last month I would have had a briefing about a question that an MP had raised on behalf of a constituent.