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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 3541

Senator FAULKNER —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Minister, has your attention been drawn to a recent Federal Court decision upholding an earlier ruling by the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission that a public servant who authorised and signed for his own receipt of a meal allowance should be demoted and forced to repay the money? Minister, are you aware that in this case the commission found that the public servant `had the sole approving and accounting function at the post and was required to satisfy himself as to the correctness and legality of the payment in terms of his authority'? Minister, are you also aware that the disciplinary appeals committee found that the conduct constituted a breach of the standard of behaviour expected of an officer? Minister, what is the difference between these circumstances and the case involving Mr Max Moore-Wilton?

Senator HILL —I have answered before, and we had some discussion on this in the estimates committee, that the practice adopted by Mr Max Moore-Wilton in relation to that matter was consistent with previous practices. We talked about the range of departmental officials who were involved in that process. We talked about the fact that the benefits that flowed to Mr Max Moore-Wilton were in fact less than what could have been possible through other alternatives. I understand that even since then there has been some third party assessment of the process, I think again through the merit authority, which has confirmed that the practices adopted in that case were all in order.

Senator FAULKNER —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, how did Mr Max Moore-Wilton get away with his self-approval of temporary accommodation arrangements when the public servant was treated in the way that I outlined in my question? Why hasn't Mr Max Moore-Wilton been asked to repay his forgone officer contribution towards the weekly cost of his Canberra accommodation?

Senator HILL —I have answered the question. The practice that was adopted in that case was consistent with previous practice and in actual fact was cheaper than some other alternatives that were available. That is not a point that Senator Faulkner has been prepared to recognise. So there is really, I do not think, much more that can be added to that matter. It was all in order. There is a difficulty, when you get to the top of the departmental line, as to who has the final approval when they are matters that concern you. That has been addressed and found to be in order in this instance.