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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 492

The PRESIDENT —I call Senator Ferguson.

Senator Gareth Evans —I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.

The PRESIDENT —I have called Senator Ferguson.

Senator Gareth Evans —Oh!

Senator Alston —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I cannot imagine you would tolerate that behaviour on this side of the chamber. I would have thought that if there is to be respect for the chair, and you expect all sides to acknowledge your role, the least that our slow-moving friend could do would be to give you an unequivocal apology.

The PRESIDENT —I would have thought that I am not getting much respect from either side of the chamber. I have called Senator Ferguson. I do not require an apology.

Senator FERGUSON —My question is directed to the Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction. I refer the minister to the appointment of the former Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr Frank Kelly, to an adviser's position in DITARD and the subsequent disallowance by the Senate of the pay determination relating to this position. I ask: is it a fact that Mr Kelly has never taken up this position negotiated in February in return for his resignation as Comptroller-General of Customs? Is it a fact that he is currently an unattached SES band 3 officer once again within the Customs Service? Can the minister give an assurance that Mr Kelly will not, under any circumstances, be appointed to a top management position either now or in the future within the Customs Service?

Senator SCHACHT —I know Senator Ferguson has been a devotee of a witch-hunt against a particular public servant, but I have to say that this question and its imputation really go to a new low level. Mr Kelly, as explained to Senator Ferguson on innumerable occasions, resigned the job of comptroller-general but did not resign from his position in the Public Service. He was fully entitled to stay in the Public Service. He is still a member of the Public Service at his substantive level, as I understand it, of deputy secretary. At the moment, he is unattached to the Customs department.

  The pay level position of Mr Kelly was rejected by the Senate. As a result, the position for Mr Kelly, as outlined, was based on a position and salary level equivalent to the level of a secretary to a department. Mr Kelly's future is a matter for discussion between the head of my department and the head of Customs. As I understand it, at the moment, he is on accumulated annual leave, which he is entitled to under the Public Service Act.

Senator Cook —Why don't you try to take that from him?

Senator SCHACHT —Those opposite may wish to take that off him, but he is on accumulated annual leave, to which he is entitled. As I understand it, discussions and negotiations are taking place between the head of my department, the new head of Customs and Mr Kelly. At the appropriate stage, an announcement will be made in accordance with the Public Service Act. Those opposite may have had a victory in the Senate in blackening Mr Kelly's name and reputation beyond all reason, but there is nothing improper happening now. He has not taken up the job because the job had been designed as the equivalent of a secretary's level and those opposite rejected the salary at that level. Now he is at his substantive level as a deputy secretary unattached to the Customs department.

Senator FERGUSON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that the government rightly made the decision to replace Mr Kelly and given the minister's own statement on 26 April that it is necessary to change the culture and organisational structure within the Customs Service, and that there would be `a new top management', how can the minister tolerate a situation where the former head of the Customs Service may still have an opportunity to influence the new course and direction of the Customs Service? I ask again: can the minister give an assurance that Mr Kelly will not be given one of these top management positions?

Senator SCHACHT —I have to say we certainly cannot win! If I interfered with the proper Public Service determination to appoint an SES level officer—a deputy secretary—those opposite would be in here screaming that I was interfering and breaking all the provisions of the Public Service Act, interfering with the deliberations of the Public Service Commissioner and so on. I will not interfere in any way that Senator Ferguson suggests or implies in that supplementary question. It is a matter for discussion and negotiation with the appropriate Public Service officers, and that is what they are doing at the moment. I think Senator Ferguson, with all due respect, should get off gnawing this bone about Mr Kelly, because I think he has gone way beyond what is reasonable in natural justice terms about Mr Kelly's future.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.