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Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Page: 102


Senator Faulkner asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice, on 23 July 2004:

With reference to the matter of Andrew Dempster versus the Commonwealth of Australia (Matter number 73346/03, Chief Industrial Magistrates Court of NSW):

(1) What was the total amount that the department was ordered to pay to the applicant.

(2) What was the total amount of legal expenses incurred by the department in connection with the matter.

(3) Did the department incur additional legal expenses in connection with its review of its policies and procedures with respect to determining the termination entitlements of staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MOPS Act), including responding to issues raised by the Australian National Audit Office and considering amendments to the Members and Senators Handbook; if so, what was the total cost of these additional legal expenses.

(4) (a) How many MOPS Act staff have been terminated, other than through resignation since, 3 October 1998; and (b) of these staff, how many had been employed for more than 12 months at the time of their termination.

(5) Since 3 October 1998, how many MOPS Act staff have been paid less than their full termination entitlements as a result of the manner in which the department has administered its obligations under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976.

(6) (a) What steps has the department taken to ensure that previously terminated MOPS Act staff who received less than their full termination entitlements are now paid their full entitlements; and (b) what will be the total cost to the Commonwealth of paying these entitlements.

(7) What steps has the department taken to ensure that MOPS Act staff who are terminated in future are paid their full termination entitlements.

(8) How many MOPS Act staff who have been terminated since 2 March 1996 have lost their right to recover unpaid termination entitlements by virtue of the operation of statute of limitation provisions.


Senator Abetz (Special Minister of State) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) $6,562.50 in outstanding entitlements plus interest of $559.88 on this amount from 4 August 2003 to 14 July 2004, totalling $7,122.38.

(2) $20,168.93.

(3) $23,997.55.

(4) (a) The number of MOP(S) Act staff who have been terminated since 3 October 1998 is 848.

(b) This information is not available from the Department's Human Resource Information Management System and will only be available once the 848 personnel records have been considered on an individual basis.

(5) Not known at this stage.

(6) (a) The Department has established a dedicated taskforce to assess and process any entitlements that former MOP(S) employees may have to payment in lieu of notice and/or pro rata long service leave. The taskforce will be responsible for writing to both former MOP(S) Act employees and those Senators or Members who employed them to ascertain the facts surrounding termination of the MOP(S) Act employment. It will also calculate any payments in lieu of notice and/or pro rata long service leave and process those payments. It is anticipated that this process may take up to six months.

(b) Not known at this stage.

(7) The Department has complied with its legal advice at all times. When the more recent legal advice was received and independently confirmed on 22 October 2003 in relation to notice and 10 March 2004 in relation to long service leave, the Department took immediate steps to implement changes to its administrative practices to ensure compliance with the new advice. These steps have included informing Senators and Members of their employer responsibilities in relation to the provision of notice in advance of the termination of employment through amendments to the Senators and Members Entitlements handbook, the inclusion of a specific reference to the minimum notice period requirements of section 170CM of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 in the employment agreements signed by all MOP(S) Act employees, and appropriate changes to the department's internal administrative practices to ensure the appropriate payments in lieu of notice and/or pro rata long service leave are made at the time of employment termination.

(8) Based on statute of limitation considerations, those staff terminated prior to 1 July 1998 would not normally have their entitlements reviewed. However, the Government is prepared to review the termination entitlements of any former MOP(S) Act employees since 2 March 1996, or before, on a case by case basis.