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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4854

Senator MURPHY (2:30 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Hill, and it relates to a commitment given by the Prime Minister on 14 August 2000 for an inquiry into the wrongful dismissal of former Tasmanian Trust Bank employee Mr Alwyn Johnson. Despite the pathetic refusal by the Bacon government to jointly fund an inquiry, the Prime Minister, to his credit, maintained his commitment to conduct the inquiry— albeit somewhat slowly, it seems. Can the minister inform the Senate how this proposed inquiry is proceeding?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —It is true that the Prime Minister agreed to set up a Commonwealth inquiry into aspects of the termination of Mr Johnson's employment. That followed earlier attempts to broker an arbitration involving Mr Johnson and the Commonwealth Bank. The Tasmanian government refused to cosponsor an inquiry with the Commonwealth into this matter. I am told that the inquiry will cover whether the disclosure by the Reserve Bank of the information provided to Mr Bernie Fraser, the then Governor of the Reserve Bank, by Mr Johnson contributed to the termination of Mr Johnson's employment and the adequacy of the compensation that has been paid to Mr Johnson. I am told that the Commonwealth has approached a senior legal figure to undertake the inquiry and we are currently awaiting a response from that person.

Senator MURPHY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the time that has now elapsed since the Prime Minister's initial commitment, can the minister assure the Senate that this inquiry will be concluded by the end of this year, thus bringing to an end the ongoing injustice suffered by Alwyn Johnson?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Obviously I cannot give that undertaking, but clearly the government is moving on its previous undertaking. As I said, a senior legal figure has been approached to conduct the inquiry. I will pass on to the Prime Minister the honourable senator's request that it be concluded as quickly as possible.