Page 2374 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2016

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The resulting complex employment framework has created inconsistent practices across the service and led to confusion about the application of the law, as well as a high administrative burden in managing staff.

Madam Speaker, that is all quoted from the explanatory statement of the bill that is before us, but it is revealing to go back and look at the public sector bill for 2014 introduced by Mr Barr’s predecessor, Ms Gallagher, two years ago.

Ms Gallagher’s bill was concerned about the same “inconsistent practices across the service” which led to confusion about the application of the law as well as a high administrative burden. It was the same quotes. But it was never presented to the Assembly and did not come into law.

With Ms Gallagher’s bill, the first page of her explanatory statement starts off with exactly the same words that I read just a moment ago from this current bill. In other words, for the past two years, we have continued to have the same stated pressing need from this government but nothing has happened.

Let me quote from Dr Hawke again, from 2011. He recommended that the Public Service Management Act should be refreshed to better support the modern ACT public service. To an extent, Ms Gallagher’s bill did that. The public sector bill that she proposed replaced the current act, and it did it in 48 pages. Two years later, this current bill that has been tabled by Mr Barr attempts to modernise the old act but does it with a 149-page bill with cobbled together amendments. It is an unlikely recipe for a simple new system.

Let me go back in history. Ms Gallagher’s motives for fixing the Public Service Management Act were not entirely based on Dr Hawke’s 2011 urgings for good government. The bill came after it was revealed that dozens of executive contracts had never been issued and executive contracts had not been properly tabled in the Assembly, and in some cases were missing. I commend my staff for picking up that error and litigating that issue so successfully. New systems, it was clear, were desperately needed.

We now have a position where, after Dr Hawke’s comments in 2011, we have this government putting through this bill with cobbled together amendments after five years of delay and a false start just weeks out from an election.

When we look at the new rules to gag public servants and to force public servants to dob in a mate, we may get some of the inkling of the motive. Two particularly contentious sections of the bill—clause 9, parts (2) and (4)—have caused considerable public and media discussion. They are the so-called dob in a mate clause and gagging clause, the new rules which are an attempt to control disquiet amongst the government’s own workforce. They are particularly targeted at people who communicate on social media. The rules shut down whistleblowers with the intended aim of protecting the reputation of the government and presumably its ministers.

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