Page 836 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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What is he? He is a very senior, very experienced and extremely good public servant—but he is not good enough to work with Jon Stanhope. So isn’t it interesting that on the one hand he praises Mr Tonkin and yet on the other hand he simply wants to get rid of him. Why do you get rid of somebody—incompetence, inefficiency, impropriety, perhaps infirmity, ineffectiveness, ineptitude? Well, none of those is listed as one of Mr Tonkin’s attributes. Let me read again the Chief Minister Jon Stanhope’s own words: “Mr Tonkin is a very senior, very experienced and extremely good public servant.” What did Mr Tonkin do wrong? Was Mr Stanhope afraid of the frank and fearless advice that he gave? Or was Mr Stanhope more afraid of the ACT labour council that wanted Carnell era appointees removed? Or is it because—in Mr Stanhope’s own words from the radio the other morning—“We just don’t see eye to eye with Mr Tonkin.” In that interview he also mentioned that there happened to be many others that he did not see eye to eye with around him. So what is going to happen to the many others that he does not see eye to eye with in the public service?

The Chief Minister should be aware that you just cannot sack somebody because you cannot get on with them. It is called unfair dismissal—and that is something that I thought the Labor Party was very much against. But what the Chief Minister is saying today in his reforms of the Public Sector Management Act is: there is going to be one rule for the rest of you and one rule for me, the Chief Minister. I think what we are seeing is more viceregal pretension growing here.

Now we know that the Chief Minister was unable to sack Mr Tonkin because, as he said, he is a very senior, very experienced and extremely good public servant. So he obviously did not do anything wrong. That is why the Chief Minister concocted the office of the special adviser to park him in. And that is why taxpayers have forked out $309,000 per annum to simply park Mr Tonkin—because the Chief Minister cannot get on with another individual. He had no reason to sack him, so he parked him.

You have to ask: what is the process if there is somebody that you cannot work with or who has problems? There must be some process. There must be counselling. There must be warnings. But obviously that never happened, because the Chief Minister has not followed that route. If the Chief Minister had any guts, he would stop the charade of saying that Mr Tonkin is on secondment. He is not on secondment. Secondment is predicated on returning to one’s substantive position. As a former union official said to me the other day, she was outraged when she heard that Mr Tonkin was on secondment, because secondment means you are coming back; you have got a substantive position and you have only gone for a period of time. As she went on to say, it is a fundamental tenet of our IR system and public sector management. We know he is not coming back, even though he has a position to come back to and his position number is C25. He can come back to that.

Let me finish with another quote from the Chief Minster yesterday, when he attacked us here in the opposition, the Liberal Party. He said: “This Liberal opposition—

MR SPEAKER: The member’s time has expired.

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