Page 3276 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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The role and functions of the Office were not well documented, and since April 2004 there is only a tenuous connection to the outputs of the Chief Minister’s Department.

The report went on to say:

Accountability arrangements were unclear.

It also said:

The Special Adviser’s Annual Report for 2003-04 did not fully meet the requirements of the Annual Reports Act or the Annual Reports Directions.

It continued:

The funding of the Office of Special Adviser, while legal, may not be justified on merit on its own nor reflect good public management.

It continued:

The situation, if continued, increases the risk for inappropriate uses of authority.

It really was a remarkable series of events. It reads like a script from Yes, minister. Mr Speaker, can you imagine creating a whole department for the sole purpose of sending a troublesome chief executive to the commonwealth? Chief Minister, why didn’t you just send him on gardening leave?

As well as making it easier for the Chief Minister to redeploy chief executives he does not like very much, there are some other elements to this bill that are worthy of comment. I draw members’ attention to the changes to short-term contract arrangements. Currently, a short-term contract can only be for six months—hence the term “short-term”—with the possibility of a three-month extension. Short-term contracts effectively allow executives to act in higher positions. As I noted in a question without notice last week, this government regularly breaches the requirement for these contracts not to exceed nine months. I can name no less than four senior executives who have been in their temporary positions for somewhat longer than nine months. In all of these cases, there does not seem to have been any sort of merit process.

The opposition will be introducing amendments to the clauses of the bill that allow short-term contracts to be extended to two years. It will do so on two grounds. Firstly, it is a well-known rule of thumb that, if a position needs to be acted in for more than 12 months, it needs to be filled permanently. The need to extend the length of contracts to two years is simply poor management. Secondly, as the current limit of nine months is not being adhered to, what guarantee do we have that the two-year limit also will not be breached? What little remains of the merit principle in regard to temporary assignment of executives will be completely gone if this change goes through.

I foreshadow that in the detail stage I will be moving two amendments that will reduce the proposed period from two years to a more sensible 12 months. The other changes are

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