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Tuesday, 7 December 1993
Page: 4088


Senator KEMP (11.59 p.m.) —I do not propose to detain the Senate for long. I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate a press release headed `Housekeepers respond to government allegations: Democrats urged to reconsider their position' which I and other senators received today. This press statement deals with the vexatious issue of the sacking of two housekeepers at the Lodge. It also deals with the accusations and allegations which have been made against these two people. I do not propose to canvass those issues tonight, but I would like to incorporate in Hansard the press release that was issued today. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate that press release.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Childs)—Is leave granted?


Senator Crowley —I am sorry, Senator Kemp. Could you repeat what it is you want to incorporate?


Senator KEMP —Yes, I wish to incorporate in the Hansard a press statement made today regarding the sacking of two housekeepers at the Lodge. The press statement was made by Gardini and Co., Solicitors and Attorneys.


Senator Faulkner —The normal courtesies have not been extended by Senator Kemp on this occasion and the document shown to Senator Crowley, the minister on duty. I suggest that if Senator Kemp passes that document over while he is speaking, Senator Crowley will look at it and make a decision. I think Senator Kemp understands the normal courtesies.


Senator KEMP —While this is being checked by Senator Crowley, I make the point that Mr Gardini, who was acting on behalf of the two housekeepers, is requesting that the Senate estimates committee reconvene and examine the statements which have been made by public servants and Senator Gareth Evans regarding the dismissals involved in this particular case.

  In a sense, it is a plea to the Australian Democrats to reconsider their decision on this matter. It is of great concern to these two women that statements have been made in the estimates committee and in this parliament which are contrary to their knowledge of the events. They believe that the best way to respond to these is for the Senate estimates committee to reconvene.  I urge the Australian Democrats to reconsider their position and to consider the plea of these two women and allow questions to be asked regarding this sad case and the events which led to the dismissal of these two housekeepers. Senator Crowley has probably had time to read the press release now.

  Leave granted.

  The document read as follows

GARDINI & CO SOLICITORS & ATTORNEYS

3/19 Murray Crescent, Manuka ACT 2603

PO Box 3256, Manuka ACT 2603

Telephone: (06) 295 1408 (06) 295 1733

Facsimile: (06) 295 1383

MEDIA STATEMENT

7 December 1993

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HOUSEKEEPERS RESPOND TO GOVERNMENT ALLEGATIONS—Democrats

Urged to Reconsider Their Position

The two former housekeepers at the Lodge have instructed me to make the following statement on their behalf in response to further allegations of wrongdoing made by Senator Evans recently in the Senate.

Set out below are the responses by the housekeepers to each of the allegations made in the Senate on 24 November 1993.

Allegation 1

Senator Evans alleges that "grounds for a belief for the Department that something was unsatisfactory about the employment situation had been conveyed to the housekeepers."

Response

Both housekeepers deny that the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet provided any advice, information or warning to them about the unsatisfactory nature of the employment situation at the Lodge.

Allegation 2

Senator Evans alleges "as far as the housekeeper with the official credit card was concerned, the Department's concerns had been drawn to her attention a number of times. I repeat that now."

Response

At no time did the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet draw its concerns to the housekeeper who had an official credit card.

Allegation 3

Senator Evans alleges "as to the other housekeeper, who, I am advised, had failed to follow non-financial directions she too had been advised of the Department's concern."

Response

The other housekeeper who did not have an official credit card denies that she failed to follow non-financial directions or that she had been advised of the Department's concern about any failure to follow non-financial directions.

Allegation 4

Senator Evans alleges that there "were at least four meetings with the staff in which staff were asked to improve their working relationships with one another."

Response

Both housekeepers deny that there were any such meetings with the staff. If the leader of the Government in the Senate says there were such meetings we challenge him to state the dates on which such meetings were alleged to have taken place and who was present at such alleged meetings.

Allegation 5

Senator Evans states that "it is important that people in an employment situation be clear about the attitude of their employer towards them, that they are not caught by surprise as it were, in a situation and not given an opportunity to lift their game or improve their performance. All of that, I am advised, was followed in this particular case."

Response

The housekeepers state that the attitude of their employer to them was one of appreciation for the work that they did which went beyond their formal duties and included child care responsibilities. The housekeepers state that they were caught by surprise when they were terminated given the existing attitude of their employer and they were not at any stage given any warning about any allegation relating to the unsatisfactory nature of their work and any opportunity to improve their work performance.

General Response

The housekeepers repeat the statement that they made on 9 November 1993 and reject any allegation that they failed to follow directions and that they were derelict in their duty.

The reasons given both by Senator Evans and by the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet in evidence before Estimates Committee A remain inconsistent with the Certificates of Service issued to the housekeepers. Certificates of Service state that it is not issued if the person:

1.Has been dismissed from the service for any offence or misconduct of a serious nature.

2.Has been guilty of frequent acts of misconduct although of a light nature.

The housekeepers seek a full independent inquiry into the circumstances of their dismissal and their request for compensation.

The housekeepers are extremely disappointed at the decision of the Australian Democrats not to support a motion in the Senate that Estimates Committee A be reconvened in order that the Committee be provided an opportunity to further investigate the circumstances of their termination. The housekeepers call on the Australian Democrats to reconsider their position.

Media Contact:

Robert Gardini

Tel: 295 1733


Senator KEMP —I thank the Senate. I conclude my remarks by urging all honourable senators to read this press release, particularly Senator Lees and her colleagues in the Australian Democrats, so that we can attempt to achieve some justice for these two women.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 12.03 a.m. (Wednesday)