TriCare chief will not be silenced

Jim Toohey has accused the department of “cowardice” after senior bureaucrats cast aspersions on his company in Senate hearings last week.

Outspoken industry leader Jim Toohey has once again vowed not to be silent after senior bureaucrats passed aspersions on his company at the Senate inquiry hearing in Canberra last week.

Senior public servants from the Department of Health and Ageing suggested that certain aged care providers may be basing their operations on Norfolk Island with the possible intention of tax evasion.

Then later in the hearing assistant secretary Dr David Cullen said that Mr Toohey’s company was based on Norfolk Island.

“It’s certainly the case that…there are six TriCare companies that are approved providers,” Dr Cullen said.

“They are all Australian registered companies but they are all subsidiaries of the TriCare group Pty Ltd which is registered in Norfolk Island.”

Although no direct allegation was made against TriCare, Mr Toohey described it is a “deliberately false” inference.

In a media statement Mr Toohey said all TriCare staff are employed on mainland Australia.

“As with many Corporations, TriCare has been audited previously by the Australian Taxation Office who is fully aware of the company’s structure and financial arrangements, and has not seen the need to take any action in relation to them,” he said.

Mr Toohey told Australian Ageing Agenda that the department displayed “cowardice” in making the comments under the cover of parliamentary privilege.

“I’m not surprised at this level of mud throwing given the way so many things said before the committee have been misrepresented,” Mr Toohey said.

Last year TriCare and an alliance of fellow providers were vindicated when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) decided not to investigate an allegation that they had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.

“Just as with the ACCC [referral] this is a further attempt to shoot the messenger,” said Mr Toohey.

“It’s a pity that the energy and inventiveness that the department showed here wasn’t put into analysing the financial system which aged care providers operate under.”

The Australian newspaper has reported that the department is preparing to ‘crack down’ on the use of accommodation bonds by approved providers.

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