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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 569


Senator TROETH (3.30 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans), in response to a question without notice asked by Senator Troeth this day, relating to the appointment of Mrs Joan Kirner to the Employment Services Regulatory Authority.

It has already been established quite well that Mrs Kirner has made application for payment from the Victorian parliamentary superannuation fund of an extra amount of $360,000. The reason for this is that she was in poor health, which had forced her to leave the parliament. She has made application for that enormous amount.

  The new job to which Mrs Kirner has been appointed pays $104,000 per year. Not only does the job pay well but also it gives her a travel allowance of $300 per night, access to a government car, first class air travel and an annual trip for her spouse. The job is comparable to a senior executive position. The nature of the position would indicate that there would be a degree of hard work and, indeed, a good degree of travel around Australia.

  The health problems that Mrs Kirner claimed invalided her out of the Victorian parliament were back problems and tendonitis, as detailed in this morning's edition of the Melbourne Herald Sun. I put it to the Senate that these health problems are not going to be alleviated by long hours in a plane or a car, as will be required of her in her new position.

  Either Mrs Kirner is in poor health, as witnessed in her application to the super board, or she has minimised those health problems in the portrayal of her true position to Minister Crean. Yesterday in the other place, Mr Crean indicated that Mrs Kirner's new position will be `a full-time activity in the first couple of years at least'. As I have indicated, a job of this type is comparable to one in the senior executive service and would entail a great degree of hard work.

  Let us leave aside for the moment who the appointee is in this case. The coalition, far from indulging in personality politics, is simply interested in wondering whether the government is going to get good value for money in this appointment. Would a senior executive who had previously suffered health problems be allowed to take up another senior position? I put it to the Senate that the answer is that that person should not be allowed to take up that position. Part of the criteria for the suitability of a person for jobs such as these must be whether or not the applicant is capable of sustaining the rigorous schedule that is necessary to perform the job properly.

  In his answer, Senator Gareth Evans concentrated on the qualities that Mrs Kirner brings to the job. That debate will be one for another day. One quality which Mrs Kirner will need to cultivate is the ability to communicate the same message to interested parties—that is, to tell the truth. Either Mrs Kirner is ill enough to warrant the extra $360,000 payment or she is in such good health that she can take on a demanding senior executive job with this government. Senator Evans dodged this issue totally during his answer to me. We can only await a more specific answer when the matter is raised again.

  Mr Crean also said that he wished the coalition would concentrate on real issues of importance. I put it to the Senate that this is a real issue of importance concerning not only jobs for cronies but also the dispensation of government money to those who may not be capable of fulfilling their responsibilities.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.