Page 995 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

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Questions without notice

Mr Rob Tonkin

MR SMYTH: My question is directed to the Chief Minister. Last week you told the Assembly, in regards to Mr Tonkin and the Office of the Special Adviser—and I quote:

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.

This is at odds with advice I have received from Dr Peter Shergold, the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I quote from a letter from Dr Shergold:

The ACT Government made Mr Tonkin’s services available to my department to conduct the COAG Bushfire Inquiry. They have continued to make his services available. The details of Mr Tonkin’s employment are a matter for the ACT government.

Chief Minister, whose version of events is correct—yours or Dr Shergold’s?

MR STANHOPE: I must say, I struggle to discern the difference between my position and that of Dr Shergold in relation to Mr Tonkin’s secondment to the Prime Minister’s department. As I have said, Mr Tonkin has been on secondment to the Prime Minister’s department for some significant period now. In that time, Mr Tonkin has, most assuredly, carried out his duties with his usual professionalism, capacity and verve and, as a result, produced a very significant report for COAG in relation to bushfires in Australia. He continues in that role in the Prime Minister’s department performing a vital function for the people of Australia. He has done it through his work on the COAG bushfire inquiry, and he continues to do it in the work that currently engages him.

Having said that, Mr Tonkin is due to retire from that particular position, as I understand it. Unlike the Liberal Party in this place, I certainly wish Mr Tonkin a public service of enormous achievement all the best for the future.

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Why won’t you just admit that you foisted Mr Tonkin onto Prime Minister and Cabinet to get rid of him because you did not like him?

MR STANHOPE: I did not.

Health—breast screening

MRS BURKE: Mr Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister for Health, Mr Corbell. I refer to comments by the ACT’s representatives on the Breast Cancer Australia Network in the Canberra Times about concerns raised by women with them about delays in breast cancer screening:

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