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Monday, 10 May 1993
Page: 485


Mr ALDRED (11.20 p.m.) —In speaking to these appropriation Bills, I wish to raise continuing concerns about the operation of the Federal Department of Employment, Education and Training, DEET, and the implications these concerns have for the effective and proper use of taxpayers' money in this area of government.

  The House will recall that in the last grievance debate of 1992, on Thursday 17 December, I challenged the suitability of Mr Barry Hogan to head the outposted fraud prevention unit of DEET in Victoria. On that occasion I pointed out that over recent years Mr Hogan's career has been dotted with the most disturbing incidents, and detailed these at some length. The Government to its discredit refused leave for me to table documents supporting the arguments I put to honourable members.

  Notwithstanding the obstruction of the Government, the subsequent furore, including a report in the Melbourne Herald-Sun, brought about an internal investigation into the matters I had brought out into the open. I am able to report to the House that Mr Hogan no longer heads the fraud prevention unit and now works elsewhere in DEET. As I am given to understand, he is also likely to be included in a future redundancy arrangement.

  The ultimate action upon these specific allegations is commendable, but ongoing concerns must and do remain about the administration of DEET. These concerns have been reflected in the considerable number of questions on notice I have asked over a long period about DEET activities, many of which were answered only just prior to the last Federal election. In particular, I wish to pursue the issue of the awarding of consultancies by DEET to former departmental officers. Before going to the finer points of this issue, I would draw to the attention of the House the guidelines on acceptance of business appointments on retirement or resignation issued by what was then the Commonwealth Public Service Board on 16 April 1987. Subsequently these guidelines were distributed on 25 May 1987 within the former Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, now DEET, to all deputy secretaries, division heads, State and Territory directors and other senior officers. The guidelines were later slightly amended and reissued in DEET, as a reminder to staff in June 1988 and again on 18 September 1992, as an official conduct statement.

  Paragraph 3 of the later guidelines casts the following clear cut warning:

The procedures seek to take account of possible sensitivities or improprieties such as:

.  the use of confidential information gained by virtue of a former public servant's official position;

.  the use of departmental contact or personal influence by a former staff member to secure preferential treatment for a new employer; or

.  actions or decisions on the part of an officer taken while still employed in a department, which may be construed as having been intended to give preferential treatment to a company in anticipation of the officer receiving an offer of employment from that company at some time in the future.

Paragraph 10 of the guidelines further states:

Proposed employment of staff in the following businesses or bodies requires careful consideration:

.  those in, or anticipating, contractual arrangements with the government.

Moreover, paragraph 16 says in part:

However, the proposed post-separation employment should not be detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth, or give the proposed new employer an unfair competitive advantage.

That concludes the quotes from the official conduct statement.

  The purpose in mentioning certain of the guidelines at some length is that they have special relevance to the consultancy and training work undertaken for DEET by Moreland Group Training Technologies Pty Ltd and Groundwork Development Pty Ltd, which are located in Melbourne. It is significant that the manager of the Moreland group is Mr Tom Gibson, who is also associated with Groundwork Development. Immediately prior to working with Moreland, Mr Gibson was head of the programs division of DEET from 1 April 1987 until 6 July 1990, as indicated in the answer of the Minister for Employment, Education and Training (Mr Beazley) to my question on notice No. 1571 in the last Parliament. This same answer tells us that Mr Gibson also acted as State director of DEET in Victoria from 19 December 1988 to 24 February 1989, 26 June 1989 to 7 July 1989 and 30 November 1989 to 18 May 1990. Moreover, the answer confirms that, as head of the programs division, Mr Gibson was responsible for Aboriginal programs, Aboriginal training, industry training and Training Services Australia, TSA, in Victoria.

  Of further interest in the Minister's answer to my question No. 1571 is the information that Mr Gibson played a key role in the promotion or transfer of key DEET officers in the training area. Mr Gibson was a member of the selection advisory committee which recommended the promotion of Mr Deny Martin to the position of assistant director, industry training, senior officer grade B. He chaired the committee which recommended the transfer of Mr Andrew Jackomos to the position of assistant director, Aboriginal programs branch, senior officer grade B; and, in consultation with the then State director, Victoria, he recommended the transfer of Mr Ray Levingston to the position of assistant director, training services Australia, senior officer grade B.

  Mr Andrew Jackomos later transferred from DEET to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, ATSIC, on 1 July 1992 as part of the transfer of the community element of the training of Aboriginals program, TAP, to ATSIC. This fact comes from the response of the then Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs to my question on notice No. 2003. This same response points out that Mr Jackomos was promoted to the position of State manager for ATSIC in Victoria on 7 December 1992.

  The full implications of Mr Gibson's influence in the bureaucratic advancement of these officers will become apparent as I now proceed to deal with the work awarded by DEET and ATSIC to the companies with which he is involved. Before embarking on this analysis, it is worth noting that working with Moreland in much of this work has been Mr Iain Polley, another former officer of DEET. According to the Minister's answer to my question No. 1571, the Moreland group and Groundwork Development were paid a total of $280,679.37, from March 1990 to when the Minister provided his answer to me on 23 December 1992, for some 20 training and consultancy packages. Payments for 15 of these packages are detailed in the DEET annual reports of 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1991-92 totalling $166,760.

  Presumably the discrepancy in total amounts arises from the fact that some payments were outside the periods covered by the three annual reports referred to, or there is some discrepancy between what was put in the annual reports and what the Minister was told by his department. The principal concern, however, is in the ballooning of payments from the time Mr Gibson joined the Moreland group after leaving DEET on 6 July 1990. In the 1989-90 annual report only $15,200 was reported as being paid to the Moreland group, yet this tripled to $45,840 in the 1990-91 report and had gone up sevenfold to $105,715 by the 1991-92 report. It is difficult to believe that the Moreland group had become so dramatically improved after Mr Gibson joined it from DEET, that DEET officers felt compelled to push such substantial extra work its way.

  This question becomes more intriguing when we look at that part of the Minister's answer to my question No. 1571, which states that none of the officers over whose promotion or transfer Mr Gibson had influence, exercised any delegation in respect of the payments made to the Moreland group. Such an answer does not fit with the departmental documentation over this period in relation to approvals for payment to the Moreland group for a number of the packages it provided through DEET.

  Mr Ray Levingston, who Mr Gibson recommended be transferred to the position of assistant director, Training Services Australia, and who later became director, TSA, approved payments to Moreland as follows: on 3 July 1990, payment of $2,998.65 being two-thirds of the proceeds of a workshop run from 12 to 14 June jointly by Moreland and TSA; on 27 August 1990, payment of $1,800 for a share of proceeds from a metropolitan fire brigade program held in mid-year; on 23 October 1990, $1,600 for trainer training programs run just prior to payment; on 8 November 1990, $4,125 for a training techniques program held from 29 October to 2 November; on 18 October 1991, $1,600 for a two-day course run on 12 to 13 September; on 8 November 1991, a further $4,500 for a training needs analysis; and, finally, on 6 April 1992, $1,650 for trainer training conducted during 5 to 14 February.

  Apart from approving payment to Moreland in these instances, Mr Levingston was, of course, instrumental in actively arranging for Moreland to provide certain of these and other packages for or through DEET. Furthermore, the dates of these payments clearly shown on departmental records make a nonsense of the Minister's claim in his answer to my question No. 1571 that it was not possible to provide dates of payment. Someone is taking someone for a ride somewhere!

  The contract that really takes the cake, though, is the engagement of the Moreland group on 23 November 1989 through DEET on behalf of the Victorian Aboriginal Employment Development Policy Coordinating Committee, to undertake a study of the training needs of the Aboriginal field staff of the AEDP agencies. A minute signed by Lesley Hale, Deputy State Director of DEET on 26 May 1992, further says of this contract:

The contract was approved by the Director of Programs, Mr Tom Gibson. The cost of the contract to the department was $2,500.

This is just over seven months prior to Mr Gibson quitting DEET for private training. Strangely, the amount of $2,500 for Moreland is shown in the DEET annual report for 1989-90, but for a different purpose. Moreover, who on 15 April 1992 is paid an amount of $4,350 and a further amount of $3,800 for consultancy work with the Aboriginal community arising out of the contract just referred to? Thanks to a departmental fax sent by Mr Andrew Jackomos on 10 June 1992 we know it was Mr Tom Gibson through his company, Groundwork Development. It really has to be said that Mr Gibson's record before and after leaving DEET has given a whole new meaning to the phrase `providing for your own future'.

  Of special interest also must be the consultancy awarded to Moreland through DEET for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. There was no public tender for this major consultancy as the work involved was likely to be below the tender threshold of $30,000. However, the eventual payment to Moreland was $41,746.30, as indicated in the Minister's response to my question No. 1571, which is well over the tender threshold.

  The selection of Moreland was recommended in a minute signed by Mr Bill Bowron, Assistant Secretary, Aboriginal Community Development Branch, on 21 October 1991. Mr Bowron, it should be noted, was also the author of the June 1988 official conduct statement. Moreland was chosen from three so-called firms of consultants, the other two being Mr John Stewart, a Sydney management consultant, and Jada Business Services of Cleveland in Queensland. I understand that Mr Stewart is a former director of Training Services Australia in the New South Wales State office of DEET. Good old DEET again!

  Little is known about Jada Business Services. None of the mainstream training agencies were approached that could have provided stiff competition for Moreland. Mr Bowron found all three contenders acceptable on the basis of competence, experience and fees quoted. Nevertheless, he recommended Moreland for the task as follows:

All three firms have the ability to pursue required outcomes, but first ranking would have to be given to the Moreland Group because of their previous involvement in drafting the department's submission to the royal commission in 1990.

This frankly strikes me as a very loose basis upon which to recommend a major consultancy which turns out to be $12,000 over the public tender threshold. The Moreland group and Groundwork Development have as well done well out of work for ATSIC, with Mr Polley and Mr Gibson heavily involved in much of the work undertaken. As shown in the answer of the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (Mr Tickner) to my question on notice No. 2003, contracts for Moreland go back to October 1989. Most of the work given by ATSIC to both Moreland and Groundwork in terms of value and volume has, however, been in 1991 and 1992.

  I would remind the House that Mr Gibson left DEET for his private sector activities on 6 July 1990. Furthermore, I would remind members that Mr Gibson chaired the selection advisory committee that recommended the transfer of Mr Andrew Jackomos to the position of Assistant Director, Aboriginal Programs Branch in DEET. When the responsibilities of that branch went from DEET to ATSIC on 1 July 1992 it will be recalled from the answer to question No. 2003 that Mr Jackomos went to ATSIC too.

  All of this may well be a wonderful coincidence of events in the Aboriginal training area out of which Moreland and Groundwork have derived a significant benefit, or maybe they provide a service of especially high competence. On the matter of competence I would have to say—and I am able to speak as a former professional trainer in both the public and private sectors—that certain compelling questions arise out of at least one major project undertaken by Moreland. I refer to the Moreland group report entitled Cultural diversity training in DEET commenced as a consultancy for DEET on 1 November 1991, with a final report presented in February 1992.

  Apart from the vagueness of many of the report's assertions and the absence of such a basic element as a bibliography, it makes among its 10 recommendations a distinctly peculiar one. Recommendation No. 2 states:

To complement training and assist in work with clients, we recommend the development of `a phrase book'—including Aboriginal languages—for use in initial communication with clients in a variety of languages.

I do not quarrel with the notion that DEET officers should be trained to be more sensitive to all groups in the community, but how many languages are they expected to have a working command of phrases in? The proposed phrase book also presupposes very poor knowledge of what constitutes survival linguistic skills. More to the point, why are DEET officers expected to know Aboriginal phrases when only 40,000 of Australia's 200,000 Aborigines speak traditional or indigenous Aboriginal languages? We are, after all, talking about the operational practicalities of the day to day running of a Federal department.

  The awarding of contracts of any form by Federal departments must at all times be and be seen to be totally above reproach, but even more so in respect of consultancies awarded by a department to its own former officers. Accordingly, I call upon the Minister for Employment, Education and Training to immediately investigate whether the relationship between the Commonwealth and the Moreland group and Groundwork is in any way in breach of the official conduct guidelines for the acceptance of business appointments on retirement or resignation.

  Such an inquiry, I would suggest, should closely examine four points: first, whether those officers who authorised payment on approved consultancies had the proper authority and delegation; second, whether they, their relatives or friends profited or gained a benefit by the grant of consultancies; third whether they, their relatives or friends worked with the Moreland group or Groundwork Development at any time; and, four, whether Mr Tom Gibson was made an offer of partnership or employment with the Moreland group and Groundwork Development because he could deliver consultancies, having promoted or transferred the appropriate people within DEET. In demanding an inquiry I point out that as a DEET officer, Mr Tom Gibson was handed the official conduct guidelines on 25 May 1987 and subsequently sighted and signed them. Finally, I seek leave to table the various documents I have referred to throughout my speech on these appropriations.

  Leave granted.