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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4119 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Chief Minister, you need to explain to this Assembly why you will not stop these payments. They should be stopped. Indeed, you are morally obliged to stop them if you want to have any credibility in relation to the proper administration of public finances. You cannot continue to ignore this issue. You cannot continue to ignore the fact that these standards cannot be varied except with approval, in writing, from you. That is the basic requirement, Mr Speaker. The Chief Minister has failed it. Perhaps we will need to look at whether this matter needs to be referred to the public accounts committee or, indeed, to the Auditor-General because, quite frankly, this is a scam, this is a rort, this is a scandal which the Government cannot walk away from and which the Chief Minister cannot walk away from.

Mr Speaker, at the end of the day, the Chief Minister has a simple responsibility. She cannot hide from it and she cannot walk away from it. These payments should not have been made. Section 251 of the Public Sector Management Act says that the commissioner may, with the approval in writing of the Chief Minister, make management standards not inconsistent with the Act. That includes, obviously, the varying of standards in relation to the terms and conditions of employment of officers and employees. Mr Speaker, the case is clear. The Chief Minister cannot walk away from it. Stop the payments, Chief Minister, in the interests of good public administration in this Territory.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (3.43): It is unfortunate that Mr Corbell has just given a speech based upon absolutely wrong information. It is fascinating that Mr Stanhope, supposedly being a lawyer, would allow Mr Corbell to give such a wrong interpretation of a piece of legislation. I suppose that is typical of those opposite.

Mr Corbell's matter of public importance today is based upon a basic misunderstanding of two issues of some substance. The first is that these payments were, in his terms, inappropriate. How does he arrive at this conclusion? The entitlements were paid under existing rules within existing delegations by public servants appropriately authorised to make the decisions. It is not possible to say that they were unlawful. They were also appropriately made to people who met the eligibility requirements. Even taking all of that into account, Mr Corbell considers that these payments were inappropriate. He thought that the payments were so inappropriate that he was quoted in the Canberra Times as saying that they were a rort. Today, he said that it was a scam and a rort. Mr Corbell provided names, photos were included and the word "rort" stuck to each of those individuals. Regardless of personal views about remuneration and allowances, whether they be for politicians, public servants, private sector executives or, for that matter, those people who are getting a 500 per cent loading on New Year's Eve, those views do not make them improper, illegal or rorts.

Secondly, the Opposition argues that I, as Chief Minister, should not have permitted the payments, should now stop the payments and should be held responsible for administering those allowances. How does that sit with ongoing allegations of politicisation of the Public Service, Mr Speaker? Should a Minister reach in and make decisions on the administration of allowances of public servants without authorisation?

Mr Moore: Individual ones.

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