Page 1060 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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Mr Harris to the position valid, given that it is not vacant? Further, is it legal to have two chief executives of the same department?

Last month I wrote to both the Commissioner for Public Administration and the Auditor-General about the Tonkin affair. From the commissioner I sought advice as to:

the usual salary practice with secondments of ACT officers to the commonwealth;

the legality of the arrangements relating to the Office of Special Adviser;

whether the creation of the Office of Special Adviser meets public sector standards and best practice;

the legality of payments made to Mr Tonkin from mid-November 2003;

precisely what organisation Mr Tonkin is the chief executive of;

whether there are currently two chief executives of the Chief Minister’s Department; and

whether the appointment of Mr Harris is valid.

The commissioner has since written back to me stating that she cannot provide the advice I requested, as the Public Sector Management Act does not permit her to. The problem is that the commissioner cannot unilaterally undertake a review, nor is she able to provide advice to anyone other than the Chief Minister.

This bill simply amends section 21(2) of the act so the commissioner can undertake a review, if she chooses, without the approval of the Chief Minister. It also provides that she may investigate a matter referred to her by a member of the Assembly. This is an important amendment. As the act stands, the commissioner is far too beholden to the Chief Minister to perform her role. Admittedly, when the bill was originally drafted, it probably never occurred to anyone that a chief minister would go to the lengths that Mr Stanhope has to get rid of a chief executive. But since the Tonkin affair, it is clear that this sort of activity by a chief minister needs to be scrutinised.

In summary, while this bill arises from the Tonkin affair, it is an important set of amendments for the future to ensure the independence of the commissioner and to ensure the independence of the public service. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope) adjourned to the next sitting.

Employment conditions

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (12.15): I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) expresses its concern about the Office of the Employment Advocate’s advocacy of employment contracts that distinguish between voluntary and compulsory overtime and calculate weekly hours by average, rather than consideration of actual hours worked;

(2) notes that these moves undermine efforts by the ACT Government, unions and the community to achieve a balance between work and life;

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