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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 2843 ..

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (10.59): There are a couple of points in the debate that I would like to re-emphasise. The first of those is that the existing Public Sector Management Act would allow the Government to employ chief executives on contract. This point has completely escaped the Government. I accept that the government of the day may want to employ chief executives in a way that suits its own particular ideology. I say again that, under the Public Sector Management Act, if this Government wanted to, it could appoint all of those chief executives on contract. There is no doubt whatsoever about that.

The amendment that I have moved today still allows the Government to do that. It does not compel all chief executives to be employed on contract. The existing legislation and the amendment that I have moved allow a situation of choice, of consultation, of accommodation of particular wishes, to occur. The Government's proposal does not. The Government's proposal imposes the contract situation on all chief executives by law. I should say that also, by making the changes in this way, the Government is making a retrospective change to people's conditions of employment. That is an unarguable position. It is simply the case that, by removing tenure compulsorily, not by choice, the Government is retrospectively removing a condition of employment that people had enjoyed. I think that is a serious matter, but clearly the Government does not.

There was another issue that I wanted to address, and that was Mrs Carnell's comments about a merit selection process. It is the case that previously chief executives were always selected after a merit process, with one notable exception. That was when Mr Kaine was Chief Minister during the period of the Alliance Government, when all of the chief executive appointments were simply signed without a process of interview or selection. The legislation that is already in place envisages a merit selection process. That was the course that we followed when we were in government. In trying to make some point about merit selection, Mrs Carnell is attempting to mislead this Assembly, because the fact of the matter is that there was only one instance where there was no merit selection process, and that was under a Liberal government. That is an absolute red herring, and one of a number.

As I say, the amendment allows the Government to do exactly what it has said that it wants to do; and it cannot argue that it does not. The amendment would allow the Government to appoint all chief executives on contract, on whatever contract it believes is most appropriate, but would also, and very importantly I think, protect the right of chief executives to make a choice about whether they have a contract or have tenure. Mrs Carnell has said that those going on contract will get increased remuneration, presumably to make up for the loss of tenure. The very fact that you are having to increase the remuneration indicates that they are losing a right. There is no doubt that it is a loss. My view is that there should be some room for negotiations, some room for autonomy by the chief executives in having a say on how they are employed. I commend the amendment to the Assembly because that is what this amendment achieves. It does allow the chief executives some say in their own conditions of employment. That is only appropriate. We are dealing with the very small number of people at the very top of the ACT public service. We can trust them to make a good decision about whether they want to go on contract or remain on tenure. I commend the amendment to the house.

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