Page 776 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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the outcomes of that particular process. I am not quite sure exactly what either the Auditor-General or the commissioner at this stage proposes to do with the request for investigation or inquiry into issues around the secondment of Mr Tonkin to the Prime Minister’s department.

Let me reiterate that Mr Tonkin did accept the secondment to the Prime Minister’s department in November, or towards the end of, 2003. Mr Tonkin is a very senior, very experienced and extremely good public servant and I have to say I was very pleased that he was able to accept an appointment with the Prime Minister’s department to head up the COAG inquiry into bushfires within Australia. It was a very significant piece of work that Mr Tonkin oversaw in that capacity, and the fruits of the work that Mr Tonkin did in that role will be to the benefit of all of Australia—indeed to all Australians—and quite particularly of course to the people of the ACT, having regard to the very significant impact of the 2003 fires on the ACT and of course the very detailed and specific understanding that Mr Tonkin achieved through that experience and his involvement in issues around the bushfire here in the ACT. I think it is probably fair to say that at that stage he had a level of insight and a level of understanding around bushfire issues that very few other senior officers would have had.

In relation to the administrative arrangements, an Office of Special Adviser, COAG and Intergovernmental Relations, was created to support Mr Tonkin’s chief executive status and conditions during that secondment. Those administrative arrangements, I understand, were made on 9 February 2004. An instrument was then issued under the Financial Management Act, which involved the Chief Minister’s Department supporting that office. An annual report was provided as part of the 2003-04 Chief Minister’s Department report to meet the requirements of the annual reports act and to ensure that there was transparency to the arrangements. The arrangements were considered the most effective way to sustain Mr Tonkin’s terms and conditions as a chief executive while enabling ongoing management arrangements for the Chief Minister’s Department.

I am advised that the Public Sector Management Act permits secondments to other governments, and the steps taken through that arrangement to support Mr Tonkin did result indeed from his status as a chief executive. I do propose some amendments to the Public Sector Management Act to deal with the existing incredibly inflexible executive employment arrangements that currently apply under the Public Sector Management Act. They are inflexible to the point of being essentially incapable of allowing any reasonable management of a senior executive.

In fact, a bill was introduced last year to redress the impact of the more restrictive elements of the chief executive and executive employment framework. In addition, there are some other technical changes that would result from the passage of that particular legislation to facilitate transfers of executives and chief executives, but that is a debate for another day. It is something that I propose to proceed with. As I just mentioned, a bill was introduced last year, but it lapsed at the end of the last parliament and I have not yet reintroduced it. But it is something that has been referred to me for reintroduction and something that I will proceed with.

It is, by way of conclusion, relevant to note that under the last Liberal government there were a number of secondments to other departments of very senior executives, including

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