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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9167

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (18:57): by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) to (3), as circulated:

(1) Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (line 5), omit “, 59 and 60”, substitute “and 59”.

(2) Schedule 1, item 1, page 6 (lines 13 to 27), omit section 60.

(3) Schedule 4, item 6, page 59 (lines 13 to 21), omit the item.

In my speech on the second reading, I foreshadowed that I would be moving these amendments to take out of the bill those provisions which would have made it possible for the Prime Minister of the day to appoint a secretary who had either resigned or whose term had expired to any position that Prime Minister wished and it would be unended. I also said I would be moving these amendments because this could create what is known in New South Wales as the 'unattached list', which has risen to contain vast numbers of public servants who remain on the payroll with no job to do, and it could undermine the aspirational aims of this bill, which are to ensure that the Public Service upholds its principles—which have now been reduced from 15 to five. The aspirations are at all times to give true and fair advice to ministers, to government, but also to serve the public well.

The minister across the table has outlined some personal experience he had where he found that the Public Service acted to give great comfort and to work for the benefit of a particular Australian, who happened to be his mother. We have heard other stories in this chamber, and there would be many people who can speak of great and important experiences they have had with individual members of the public sector. My concern all along is that we should not see the aspirational terms of the act undermined by a situation where it would be possible for a departmental head to act to ingratiate himself or herself with the Prime Minister of the day with the aim of obtaining preferential treatment upon their resignation or the expiry of their term.

During the debate we spoke about the appointment of Mr Ken Henry, the head of Treasury who had subsequently been appointed by the Prime Minister on very favourable terms to the position of adviser to her on the same salary, for just 40 hours of work a week, that the current serving head of the Department of the Treasury receives, and if less than that is worked then he is paid on a pro rata basis.

So, I had dual concerns in moving these amendments: this is an aspirational bill and we do not want a provision in it that would undermine the aspiration of service to government and service to the people of Australia; and, secondly, we would not wish the bill to allow the sort of situation that developed in New South Wales, which so outraged so many people, to become a possibility in the federal arena. It is for those reasons that I have moved these amendments which, very simply, remove the provisions that would have facilitated that situation. I am delighted that the government has agreed to the amendments and I commend them to the House.