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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4016


Senator CONROY —On behalf of Senator Robert Ray I present the 66th report of the Privileges Committee entitled Person referred to in the Senate: Ms Deborah Keeley .

Ordered that the report be printed.


Senator CONROY —I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

Leave granted.


Senator CONROY —I move:

That the report be adopted.

I seek leave to incorporate the relevant material in Hansard .

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows

This report is the twenty-fourth in a series of reports recommending that a right of reply be accorded to a person who claims to have been adversely affected by being referred to in the Senate.

On 22 April 1997 the President received a letter from Ms Deborah Keeley relating to remarks made by Senator Bill O'Chee in the Senate on 10 October 1996. The President referred the letter to the Committee as a submission under Privilege Resolution 5. The Committee has considered the submission and recommends that a response agreed to by Ms Keeley and the Committee be incorporated in Hansard.

As the Committee always reminds the Senate, in matters of this nature it does not judge the truth or otherwise of statements made by honourable Senators or persons. Rather, it ensures that a person's submission, and ultimately the response it recommends, accord with the criteria set out in Privilege Resolution 5.

I commend the report to the Senate.

APPENDIX 1

RESPONSE BY MS DEBORAH KEELEY

AGREED TO BY MS KEELEY AND THE COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES PURSUANT TO RESOLUTION 5(7)(b) OF THE SENATE OF 28 FEBRUARY 1988

I wish to seek redress under Privilege Resolution No. 5 as agreed to by the Senate on 25 February 1988.

I apologise for my delay in submitting this request but ill health has prevented me from preparing my submission at an earlier time.

My concern relates to statements initially made by Senator Bill O'Chee in the Senate on the evening of Thursday, 10 October 1996 in which he stated:

   ". . . The opposition has made a large amount of political capital out of a report prepared by the Office of Government Information and Advertising, and they have quoted from that report very selectively. But what they may not have known—or maybe they knew and withheld it from this Senate; that, in itself, would be a shameful act—is that it is our understanding that one of the principal authors of the report prepared by the Office of Government Information and Advertising (OGIA) has, in fact, been offered a lucrative position with Bevins advertising agency: the very advertising agency which that mob on the other side claims should have this contract. . . " (Senate—Proof Hansard, Thursday 10 October 1996, p. 3864)

Later that night Senator O'Chee continued:

   "Their only source of information for the speeches we have had from the other side, from what we can gather, was the report prepared by somebody whom we believe to have had a vested financial interest in one advertising agency coming out the winner in that process." (Senate—Proof Hansard, Thursday 10 October 1996, p. 3865)

Matters raised in these allegations were then debated in the Senate several more times over the proceeding weeks.

The allegations received national exposure in the media over the following six weeks and I was named as the officer against whom allegations had been made. As a person who has sought to build a professional reputation for honesty, integrity, dedication and conviction these allegations struck me as being decidedly unfair.

John Bevins issued a media release on Friday 11 October rebutting Senator O'Chee's allegations but as a public servant I was unable to respond to any media enquiries concerning the allegations and so was effectively unable to defend the assault on my professional integrity and reputation or support the comments made by John Bevins Advertising as they tried to defend their good name.

It had been my intention to retire from the Australian Public Service on Friday 18 October along with five close colleagues. My application for a voluntary redundancy had been accepted in August and I had received papers from Comsuper confirming the date of my departure from the Department. I had, accordingly, made plans based on these arrangements.

On the afternoon of Friday 18 October, the day I was scheduled to retire from the Australian Public Service, I received notification from my Secretary that my retirement notice had been revoked. I was told I would be needed for as long as it took to conduct the investigation into Senator O'Chee's allegations.

In his report to the Hon. David Jull, Minister for Administrative Services report titled `Report into Alleged Impropriety/Conflict of Interest—National Gun Control Public Education Campaign', dated 30 October 1996, Mr John Mellors, Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services found:

   Ms Keeley and John Bevins Pty Ltd categorically deny Senator O'Chee's allegations that Ms Keeley (or any other OGIA officer) was "offered a very lucrative contract with Bevins". I have no reason to doubt these denials. In the absence of any evidence which might cast doubts on the statements by Ms Keeley and John Bevins Pty Ltd, I believe their statements should be accepted as fact.

   I am satisfied no actual conflict of interest arose in this case.

I remained in the Department of Administrative Services during the four weeks of the investigation and then the two weeks it took for my Minister to note the report.

Due to the political circumstances which led Senator O'Chee to make his allegations, I felt and still feel my position and professional standing was sacrificed.

Despite such close investigation, my professional behaviour, campaign management and also my assessment of submissions from advertising agencies for the National Gun Control Public Education Campaign was not faulted. Indeed, senior officers of OGIA have commented to client departments they would prefer officers to be less accountable than I had sought to be in my record keeping during the submission process for the Gun Control campaign.

In conclusion

Senator O'Chee made an allegation based on incorrect information. This allegation, subsequently found to be false, has caused undeserved damage to my health, welfare and reputation.

Of the greatest concern to me, however, is the fact that Senator O'Chee's false allegations have effectively politicised my name and the work I did as Campaign Manager within OGIA.

Like most of my colleagues in OGIA, I strove to work diligently, honestly and to the utmost of my capability and capacity to deliver advertising campaigns which the Government of the day felt would benefit the people of Australia. For the vast majority of my time spent in the Australian Public Service it was an honour to serve the Government and through the Government, the people of Australia.

I deeply resent Senator O'Chee's allegations and the way in which they misrepresented my motivation and my actions in performing the duties of the position I held.

Deborah Keeley

17 April 1997

Question resolved in the affirmative.