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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4116 ..


Discussion of Matter of Public Importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Corbell proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The Chief Minister's failure to accept responsibility for the inappropriate payments of Temporary Accommodation Allowance to Senior Executives in the ACT Public Service.

MR CORBELL (3.28): Mr Speaker, the payment of over $300,000 worth of temporary accommodation allowance to certain senior executives in the ACT Public Service for periods of over three years, in some instances, is nothing short of a scandal and a rort. Mr Speaker, it is scandal which is undermining the public's faith in the public administration of our city and it is a rort which takes ACT ratepayers' money away from the essential services which our city so desperately needs and puts it in the hands of already highly paid public servants.

Last week I revealed that the ACT Government has been paying certain ACT public servants temporary accommodation allowance, contrary to advice it received from the accounting firm Ernst and Young in an independent report in 1997. In that report the Government was warned that the payment should not be made where the employment contract exceeded two years. The Ernst and Young report further warned that, whilst the ATO has accepted these payments as a legitimate living away from home allowance for periods of two to three years, any payments beyond that period would probably attract clarification from the Australian Taxation Office as to whether the employees had actually changed their permanent addresses.

Mr Speaker, in answers to questions on notice from me, the Chief Minister has been forced to reveal that the cost of these payments has now reached over $300,000, even though they have been made contrary to the public sector management standards set out by the previous Labor Government in 1994 and even though they contradict the advice of the Ernst and Young report. Over the brief period that the Chief Minister has been answering questions on this issue, we have seen her stumble and stumble again, just as she did during the debate on Bruce Stadium. Clearly, she has not learnt any of the lessons from that experience and the censure of this Assembly. The Chief Minister's arrogance on this issue and her refusal to accept responsibility remain unparalleled in this place. When something goes wrong for Mrs Carnell, her theme song is: "Not, not, not responsible".

When the Chief Minister was forced to defend these payments, she attempted first to blame other people. And whom did she blame first of all? First of all, she blamed the Labor Party. What a surprise, Mr Speaker! Mrs Carnell attempted to defend these completely inappropriate payments by claiming that they were in accordance with the public sector management standards and guidelines set down by the previous Labor Government in 1994. Today, as my leader, Mr Stanhope, highlighted in question time, Labor can prove that this first defence by the Chief Minister is nothing less than an untruth. Mr Speaker, she should apologise to this place, the media and the ACT community for even attempting to use such a defence.

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