Bread and Circuses

Duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses – Juvenal
Only two things does he long for, bread and circuses – Juvenal.

They left only his hat
On Thursday 16 October 2014 at 10 am I arrived at the Sunnybank home of my friend, Ross, a man of 80 years. I had told Ross through other friends (Bernie and Rosslyn) to expect me. The front gate was not properly locked; I found his two dogs (Harry and Phoebe) waiting behind the glass doors. I could see Ross’s hat hanging up on its stand. He never leaves home without his hat. I went to nearby Sunnybank plaza searching for him.

I asked people at the shopping centre who knew him if they had seen Ross. No luck. I returned to the house and rang Bernie.

Ross (at left) defends AHIMSA house to channel 9 news

I checked the doors to the house. They were locked as were the windows. Bernie and I discussed where Ross could be. Later that night I received a call from Bernie. He told me that Rosslyn, his carer, had come home from work and Ross was still not there. This concerned me because of the way Ross had been taken advantage of by fraudsters, a crooked accountant, an architect and a political activist. Whoever took Ross had left his two dogs at the glass front door. They had not locked the front gate properly. I was aware that Ross had been under the control of the Public Guardian since 2009 for health, accommodation and contact matters even though he lived at home. His wife Ellen passed away early in 2004.

I was always suspicious of the arrangement with the public trustee and the guardian as I had accompanied Ross to make a complaint about how badly his affairs were being managed. Ross asked the Public Trustee what had happened to his main retirement asset, a building in West End.

At 3pm on Friday 17 October 2014, I made a visit to the Office of the Public Guardian at Brisbane Magistrates court on level 3 at 363 George St Brisbane. On arrival, I signed the register and spoke to the receptionist and asked to speak to the guardian about Ross’s whereabouts.

After several minutes wait, the receptionist returned saying that I should go to the guardian’s office and gave me an address in South Brisbane on a yellow post-it note. I said I wish to make a complaint, that all I wanted to find out is where is. It became apparent that someone in the back room was giving me the run around.

So, after another delay I spoke with the complaints officer (Megan) who told me that the regional manager was dealing with the matter and was currently with the public trustee and could not be contacted.

I said I was not leaving the office without finding out where Ross is and to make sure he is alright. I gave the complaints officer, Megan, my details and told her that I had tried to contact Kevin Martin, the Guardian, and a case officer, Kelly, earlier in the day but had received no response, only voice messages saying they were unavailable. I told Megan I had made a written request to find out where Ross is. Megan asked me if a person was living in Ross’s house.

I said that I was not going to be cross-examined. Megan told me that she would not help me unless I answered her questions. I told her my contact details and the complaints officer left.

At 3.20 I rang the a/Public Trustee, Mark Crofton, on his mobile phone and left a message. The Public Trustee is responsible for Ross’s financial affairs. I then rang a solicitor to ask for his advice. He said that I should try to persuade them to tell me where Ross is and, failing that, to make an urgent application to Queensland Administration Tribunal as a friend and support person for Ross.

At about 3.40 pm a man came to the counter and said that the regional manager, Therese Craig, would ring me next Monday. He did not identify himself so I asked his name. He said that he was Brian Norman, the office manager, and that he could make no further comment.

I said that I did not understand – all I wanted to know was where Ross is and if he was all right. Brian Norman told me that Ross is alive and well. I said that I am Ross’s friend and wished to find out for myself; that I had visited Ross on Thursday and found that he was not at home.

I told him that Ross was expecting me and I was concerned that he might be upset. Brian Norman said that he could not help me. I said that I did not understand and left. At 4 pm I received a call from the Public Trustee’s officer, Clinton Myles, who told me that he had been instructed by Mark Crofton acting public trustee to give me a call and let me know who was dealing with the matter. He told me that Ian Spalding at the guardian’s office was handling Ross’s case and gave me his phone number. At 4:16 pm I rang Ian Spalding and received a voice message saying he was unavailable.

I left a message. Soon after, I rang another manager, Tim Brown, and received yet another voice message. I left another message. None of the guardian staff ever responded to my messages of concern. On Monday 20 October 2014 at about 10 am, I attended the Office of Public Guardian with another of Ross’s friends, Bernie. I asked to speak with Ms Therese Craig. We waited for some time. While waiting I attempted to ring Ms Craig without any luck. Finally I received a call from Ms Craig and placed the call on speakerphone so that Ms Craig could converse with Bernie who is Ross’s main point of contact and support person. Ms Craig told me Ross’s whereabouts 100 kilometers away and that he was permitted visitors but was not permitted to leave the facility.

After a long period I was informed Ross was being held at the RSL Care facility. Reasons were not given. Later I received an email from Lisa Pool from the guardian’s office which said that Ross had been taken to RSL Care on the Sunshine Coast to better look after his needs. The email said that Ross was high care and that is why he was transferred to the dementia facility at Alexandra Headlands. So I made complaints in person and in writing to the Public Guardian Officers, Tim Brown and Therese Craig.

Tim Brown refused to give reasons for their actions and refused to tell me when I could expect a written response to my complaint and my concerns. Therese Craig said that they would respond to my concerns by 31 October 2014. Ms Craig did not honour her promise.

It is now 2018 and Ross is still locked up in a facility over 100 kilometres from his friends and support.                                       ***

‘Written’ reasons for decision supporting continued control by the guardian

Member Bayne: ‘Mr T (Ross) has been subject of tribunal orders since 2009. The first consideration therefore is capacity. Capacity is defined as Mr T is entitled to the presumption of capacity. Previous tribunal findings of fact … ‘Mr T lacks insight into his ailments’ … for example Dr Forgan-Smith described his cognitive impairment as moderate in March 2007 and as moderately severe in 2009. According to aged care (ACAT) assessment Mr T had problems with short term memory and long-term memory … and showed poor insight and judgement.

Clinical care moderator at Carramar nursing home said ‘we are of the opinion that due to his dementia he would not be able to understand the proceedings’ … ‘he has no ability for critical thinking and is easily led by others’.

Member Bayne: His friends agreed that Mr T does not have the ability to understand and make his own informed decisions. He has two groups of friends the ‘Brisbane friends’ and the other group of friends who have been actively involved with Mr T for many years (as) has been Caroline Lawson and Brian Lawson who live close to the facility at Tewantin. They care for Mr T’s dogs … he has relatives in Western Australia, his brother Sidney and sister-in-law Betty.

Katie Nutter from the office of the public guardian put in an additional report in April 2018: ‘Mr Taylor was moved to Noosa care at Carramar because of his wish to be closer to his dogs which were under the care of the Lawsons’.

The care facility provides all of the services required. A report was compiled by Ms Karen Optix employed by the public trustee saying that he was appropriately accommodated.

The guardian reviewed his accommodation and decided that he should remain in care. The Guardian said that the Lawsons could have overnight visits. Mr T was allowed to have contact visits at the facility and on leave.

Member Bayne went on: Problems arose with what I regard as a miscommunication with the accommodation facility … it was not the intention of the Public Guardian to restrict contacts and visits by any other person or members of Mr T’s support network.

The care facility did not recognise that the decision for Mr T to visit was in response to a particular request and (thought) all other contact visits also needed the same permission from the Guardian.

I consider this matter needs to be clarified with a care facility.

There is clearly no need for service provision … based on the information the Guardian Delegate has received primarily from the Sunshine Coast friends and the family and Western Australia, given the extraordinary tumultuous affairs which have been evident over the past couple of years, there are concerns that Mr T may be removed from the facility.

He required a clearly identified decision maker … informal decision makers are highly unlikely to work … given their considerable level of conflict, diverse and strongly held views that I referred to before I consider there for that help does require a formal decision maker.’

                                    ***

I do not agree with the assessment by Member Bayne. As stated before, without vigilant input from family and friends, vulnerable people are at risk in nursing homes. This is well documented in the press and on television – it is the staple of current affairs programs.

On more than one occasion Member Bayne claimed that ‘the guardian is an independent decision maker’. She held out the Lawson’s support of the public guardian as a reason to maintain the status quo.

The Lawsons always wished to wrest Ross from the clutches of one of the fraudsters whom they believe threw blood on Brian Lawson, a Vietnam vet, at a public welcome for the troops in King George Square when Brian returned from the war in the 1970s. Ross was always opposed to the war, so were his Brisbane friends. Brian Lawson’s account is a common response by Vietnam vets aggrieved that they did not get proper support from government for their service in Vietnam. Perhaps Lawson even believes that Brian laver threw blood on him.
Nevertheless, the only bloodletting that occurred on this occasion was in Vietnam, not in King George Square.

The real reason why Ross was abducted from his home was so that the crooked accountant could sell the property and so that the public trustee could wipe his hands of the matter. A ‘sage’ judge had ruled in 2012 that Ross could remain in his marital home unless he became incapacitated.

Political interference
Both the Public Guardian and the Public Trustee have received political support from two Premier’s (Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman and the Attorney’s General, Bleijie and D’Ath).

Both the Public Guardian and the Public Trustee are political appointments. They have never been independent. As the previous Attorney-General told Ross’s friend, Bernie: “we have worked with Labor appointees before (referring to Peter Carne), you just have to get over it.”

There is a transparent attempt by those responsible for his abduction to absolve their departments of elder abuse. They placed Ross in a high secure facility where management were briefed to monitor and record all interactions his ‘Brisbane friends’ had with Ross on our visits. There is a constant refrain from the Office of Public Guardian that visits by ‘Brisbane friends’ are the cause of Ross’s distress when the real cause are the actions by their officers and by the fraudsters who have enjoyed immunity from prosecution throughout.

Member Bayne added to the chorus by claiming that it is the Brisbane’s friends ‘vitriol’ for the Lawsons (that) necessitates intervention by an ‘independent’ Guardian.

The honourable Justice Glenn Martin in the Supreme Court of Queensland sanctioned the transfer of Ross’s home in Sunnybank to his crooked accountant’s family trust. The Supreme Court judge defended the Public Trustee’s slack approach stating that there was no purpose in returning the home to Ross because the bank would get the house in the end. The fraudsters had run up huge debts at AHIMSA house in West End and pocketed the money. The sage judge called the return of the Sunnybank house to Ross a Pyrrhic victory.

           ***

The Kangaroo tribunal is elder abuse

Ross is a victim of crime and these ‘sage and meticulous’ lawyers are no better than those who defrauded him of his retirement savings. Ross was kidnapped so that his crooked accountant could sell his house and the public trustee could wipe his hands of the whole affair.

I don’t believe Ross ever had dementia; I think he had a stroke, was grieving for his wife and prone to trusting people who betrayed that trust. Centacare did an ACAT assessment post 2009 which said Ross had dementia and tried to justify his removal from his marital home by claiming Ross is no good at crossing roads.

These were hardly independent assessments. The QC who wrote the opinion opposing any further action to recover the stolen money was paid by the Public Trustee using monies from clients suckered in by the offer of ‘a free will service’.

I have visited Ross at the Sunshine Coast. He is now 85 and does have some ageing issues but is still in good spirits.

He still wants those ‘thieving bastards’ brought to justice.

Ross passed away in care in 2019. Here is the eulogy I read out at his funeral on the Sunshine Coast.

Vale Ross Taylor
Words said at Ross Taylor’s Funeral
Tewantin, 5 August 2019

Ross Taylor did not come from this place, this is not his country.

Strangely it is in this place, or somewhere nearby that Ross came undone.  His long-time friend, Brian Laver, brought him to downtown Noosa to sign some documents for a merchant bank and thereby to take out a loan. In a society that worships money this was Ross’s undoing. The money was for his project which was called AHIMSA house, a community house to be devoted to peace, the environment and education of migrant women. So read his will, at least the will that I saw, there may have been others.

As a result of naked theft by Brian Laver and architect, Will Marcus, Ross lost his building in West End in Brisbane and his savings that had been invested in various small properties. With the stolen money Laver renovated his house and Marcus paid off his mortgage. They took advantage of a man in his declining years, so did the merchant bank, Challenger Bank.

When Ross tried to get his wife Ellen’s jewellery back, stolen by Laver, he went to a free legal service called Caxton Legal Aid that had been set up by Peter Carne and Noel Nunan.  From free legal advice Ross found himself in the clutches of the Public Trustee appointed by the Guardianship & Administration Tribunal.  It was the Public Trustee that continued the work started by Laver and Marcus and gave the property at West End over to the Merchant Bank who sold it.

Meanwhile an unscrupulous accountant, Suleiman Sabdia, used Laver’s greed to his own advantage and convinced Ross to sign his home at 433 Mains Road Sunnybank, the pink house, over to Sabdia’s family. I mentioned before that this burial place is not Ross’s country, however the pink house at Sunnybank was. This is where he had lived with Ellen since 1978 bought cheaply because it was a display home; crucially it was made of brick, because Ellen did not wish to live in a timber home. Anyway Sabdia stole this house and the Supreme Court of Queensland sanctioned the theft upon ‘the sage advice’ of Queen’s Counsel who said incorrectly that if it should be returned to Ross that Challenger bank would get it.

Who said the ladder of the law has no top and no bottom?

Having taken all his (remaining) assets the public trustee then set about taking away Ross’s liberty. Using deception which was later admitted in court, they took him to a highly secure facility at Tantula Rise, Alexandra Headland, RSL Care. Ross was locked up in a ward meant for people with advanced dementia.

In all this upset, Ross sought solace in friendship for that was his greatest gift – to reach out in friendship – he asked Bernie Neville for advice, Bernie acted to protect him from ‘the thieving bastards’. His other friends, Peter Gambel, Maggie, Rosslyn, Mitch helped him as best they could. They sought professional advice from Anne Berquier who gave it willingly. Of course he had other friends in Brisbane and elsewhere who tried to help.

Who knows, his project at AHIMSA house may have been a success, he had enough good people around him to overcome those who put money before solidarity, solidarity to a worker who wanted to see something good come from his labours.

We learnt from his travails, we learnt that You Can Not Trust the Public Trustee.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Vale comrade,
Ian Curr
5 Aug 2019

Ross Taylor (left) defending his building at 26 Horan Street West End, AHIMSA house in 2011.

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