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Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Page: 62

Senator STERLE (2:17 PM) —My question is to Senator Ellison, Minister for Human Services. Is the minister aware that his predecessor, Ian Campbell, has won a $35,000-a-year board appointment with Perth based IT company ASG? Is the minister aware that ASG has a six-year $14 million contract to provide IT services to the Prime Minister’s department, which its 2005 annual report says ‘greatly assisted its access to the federal government market’? Doesn’t the ASG website also list agencies in the Human Services portfolio as being among the company’s clients? Can the minister confirm whether the company is part of a consortium bidding for work on the access card project? What steps has the minister taken to ensure that Mr Campbell does not use commercially sensitive information obtained in his former role to gain advantage for his new employer in the access card tender process?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Human Services) —They really are scraping the bottom of the barrel when they come up with a question like this. I think it was former communications minister Graham Richardson who became an adviser to Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd and a Nine Network commentator in 1994. We did not hear Labor complaining about that. But I will deal with the question. Let us see how we go.

To my knowledge, former senator Ian Campbell had known the director of ASG for some time. It was a person whom he knew well before his previous ministerial portfolio. But, importantly, my department has advised me that ASG is not a tenderer for any of the current access card procurement activities, including the systems integrator and card issuance and management requests for tender. In addition, tenderers for current and future access card related procurements, such as those associated with the system integrator and card issuance and management activities, are required to adhere to a probity framework. The conditions of tender associated with both tenders that I have mentioned and which will apply to future tenders specifically require that a tenderer should not, in the absence of written approval from the department, permit a person to contribute to or participate in the preparation of the tenderer’s tender or the RFT process if the person was at any time a relevant person who was involved in the planning or performance of the access card program during the 12 months immediately preceding the date of issue of this RFT or during the period from the date of issue of this RFT to the closing time. That squarely deals with the issue that Senator Sterle raises. What is more, if former senator Ian Campbell were to be involved with a tenderer accordingly in relation to that, written permission would need to be sought from the department as I have outlined. My department advises me that former senator Ian Campbell did not have any access to tenders, nor did he seek to have access to any such tenders.

I have looked at this because I knew that the opposition would try and have a go at it. There is absolutely nothing untoward about this. I have cited the probity aspects of this. I think those senators opposite who know former senator Ian Campbell well would realise that he is a man of probity and integrity, but, what is more, he has broad experience of the commercial sector and he was going to take up a position in the private sector, which he should be entitled to do.

I can go into great detail about previous Labor ministers taking up positions—for example, John Button; Ros Kelly, in the environment; and John Kerin, in forestry. Former Attorney-General Michael Lavarch subsequently advised law firms on competition policy and former immigration minister Gerry Hand set himself up as an immigration agent. They really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. It is appropriate for former senator Ian Campbell to go into the private sector and find a job, which, no doubt, he will do well and with integrity.

Senator STERLE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Hasn’t Ian Campbell joined other former ministers—Larry Anthony, Michael Wooldridge, Richard Alston and Peter Reith—who took jobs in companies related to their former portfolios immediately after leaving office? Doesn’t this allow those former ministers to trade on their former public positions for private profit? Why does the government consider it acceptable for former ministers to undertake employment in their portfolio areas?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Human Services) —I note that Senator Sterle does not refer to those former Labor ministers that I mentioned earlier—for example, former Senator Graham Richardson to communications; John Button to a technology company after being minister for technology; and Ros Kelly to the environment, having been a former environment minister. What about John Kerin, who was a primary industries minister when he took up a job in forestry? I have outlined the probity issues that apply. I have taken the advice from my department, and I have set this before the Senate. The opposition are really grasping at straws, and they know it.