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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 March 2005 2005) . . Page.. 1058 ..


for decisions made that affect public administration in the public service, then the Commissioner for Public Administration must be able to look into matters and provide advice to elected members who seek her guidance, and not just the Chief Minister. That is what this bill will achieve.

If this bill is not supported, it will show an unwillingness by the government to ensure honest, open accountable and transparent governance. It will mean that the government does not want anyone to be able to look into matters like these that will reveal the dodgy practices of the Stanhope government.

The Tonkin affair is a perfect example of why this bill should be supported. The Tonkin affair represents a new low in the Labor government’s descent into opaque, unaccountable and unfair decision making. As far as we have been able to ascertain, the sequence of events goes something like this. By late 2003, the Chief Minister and the Chief Executive of the Chief Minister’s Department, Mr Tonkin, no longer “saw eye to eye”. There is no question that Mr Tonkin’s performance was not up to scratch for, as Mr Stanhope told us just last week, “Mr Tonkin is a very senior, very experienced and extremely good public servant.” Nonetheless, the relationship between the two became so poisonous that Mr Stanhope sought a method by which he could rid himself of this turbulent chief executive.

In November 2003, the Chief Minister announced that Mr Tonkin, the Chief Executive of the Chief Minister’s Department, was to be seconded to the commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to lead the secretariat for the Council of Australian Governments, COAG, national bushfire inquiry. This announcement made it quite clear that Mr Tonkin would be departing permanently, even though it was supposedly only a secondment, as it also noted that Mr Mike Harris would act in the position pending permanent filling.

Mr Tonkin, despite being on secondment to the commonwealth government, continued to receive his full salary as a senior executive level 3.12 in the ACT public service. In February 2004, the Chief Minister made a new notifiable instrument, NI2004-34, Administrative Arrangements 2004 (No 1). The sole purpose of this instrument was to provide for the creation of the Office of Special Adviser, Council of Australian Governments and Intergovernmental Relations as a new administrative unit under the Chief Minister’s portfolio. The role of the chief executive in this new instrumentality falls to the special adviser. While it is not stated in the instrument, the special adviser is Mr Tonkin.

Then, in March 2004, Mr Tonkin and the Chief Minister signed a schedule D variation to Mr Tonkin’s contract that reassigned him to the position of special adviser, Council of Australian Governments and Intergovernmental Relations. Then, in April 2004, the Treasurer made Disallowable Instrument DI2004-56, Financial Management Guideline 2004 (No 1), which inserted a new section 24A in the Financial Management Guidelines 2002. This new section prescribes, as a department, the Chief Minister’s Department and the Office of Special Adviser, Council of Australian Governments and Intergovernmental Relations. The purpose of this amendment to the guidelines appears to be for the OSA to circumvent the need to produce a full annual report or gain a separate appropriation.


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