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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 March 2018) . . Page.. 763 ..


We have asked the government how many overpayments have been made. They have no answers. They will not tell us how many times they have got it wrong. We have asked the government how much public money has been wasted on overpayments. They have no answers. They will not tell us how much money they have poured down the drain. We have asked the government how much money is yet to be paid back, and still the government has no answers. I call upon this government to be honest with Canberrans and tell us how much money has gone astray due to the government’s sloppy record keeping and accounting practices. How many times must Canberrans continue to pay for the government’s failures?

When we asked the government why amendments to the current legislation were necessary, we were told that this was in the name of good governance. Is the government telling us that good governance will begin with this bill? If good governance requires this legislation then what has the government been doing until now? After 17 years in power, has this government recently decided to try good governance? What kind of sloppy, inaccurate, poor payment practices is this legislation designed to hide? If this bill is truly in the name of good governance, and not an attack on current and former hardworking public servants, the Assembly will support my proposed amendment.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (5.01): On behalf of the Greens, I am happy to support this bill. There are two key elements to this bill, as has been noted by the speakers from the opposition. The first provides a mechanism for public employers to recover payments from employees who have been overpaid, in the situation where the employee has not agreed to the employer deducting money from their salary. Currently, in this situation there is no way for the employer to recover the overpaid money as the Fair Work Act does not allow the employer to deduct money without the employee’s permission.

Overpayments do arise in various circumstances. Miss Burch’s colourful language aside, it can happen by accident or, for example, when an employee takes leave but does not inform payroll staff until after the fact. You can imagine a situation where an employer might propose a range of perfectly reasonable options, but if the employee refuses then the employer cannot recover the money.

The amendment will remove the requirement that any recovery action must be agreed between the employee and the Head of Service. However, before recovery can occur without employee agreement, the Head of Service has to have regard to several factors specified in the bill. These include consideration of the period in which the overpayment occurred, the circumstances of the overpayment, the gross and net amount of the overpayment, the public servant’s financial circumstances and any other relevant circumstance. These are important considerations to protect the employee from unreasonable outcomes. For example, consideration of the employee’s financial circumstances also includes consideration of hardship, such as family tragedy, serious illness or other serious or difficult circumstances.

As a practical example, I can imagine the situation of an employee who was impacted by the Mr Fluffy crisis, who was displaced from their home and was faced with the


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