The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (16:45): I move:
That this council notes with concern recent appointments and actions by the Rann Labor government and other related matters.
In recent years, I have given a number of speeches in this place on the issue of Rann government appointments, in particular, concentrating on Rann appointments to boards and committees. Members would be delighted to know that I do not intend to repeat that particular exercise.
For those avid readers of Hansard, and those who might be interested, they can go to my website for the most recent update of Rann government appointments to boards and committees. I refer to a press statement on 7 January 2009, which lists a very long list of persons appointed to government boards and committees, who have strong associations with the Australian Labor Party, and also a release on 13 December 2008 relating to Rann’s new favourite power couple—Fabulous Phil Bentley and Marvellous Margaret Wagstaff—and the number of boards and committees that they have been appointed to. Adelaide Now was also interested enough in the issue to put it on its website—for those members who might be interested in an update on the recent round.
My contribution today concentrates on a new area, looking at what I describe as a disgraceful and despicable new process by Mr Rann and his government to provide jobs to Rann’s boys and girls in the public sector.
The PRESIDENT: Premier Rann.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Well, it might be Premier, Mr President. It is a deliberate strategy of Premier Rann—or Mr Rann, the member for Ramsay; however you want to describe him—and the Rann government to parachute a team of his spin doctors into senior, safe and very well-paid positions in the Public Service prior to the 2010 election. It is my contention that it is a conscious policy of Premier Rann and his government coming towards the end of their eight-year term in office.
Today, I propose to go through my initial list of 13 Rann government spin doctors who have been parachuted into prominent positions within the public sector, most of whom have been parachuted in within the last 12 months. I hasten to say that this is possible only as a result of the work of my office and those who provide information to my office. I am sure that there are probably many more and, through my contribution today—which I will post on my website and also place a synopsis on my Facebook site—we certainly welcome further contributions from persons with information of interest in relation to this issue.
My interest in this issue has been ongoing, but it was particularly raised just six months ago when, in August of last year, the Premier announced a significant (as he described it) restructure in which one of his most trusted and loyal advisers over a long period of time, Mr Lance Worrall (he is described as a senior Rann economic adviser in the media and in the Gazette), was parachuted into a senior position in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, no less a position than the Chief Executive Officer of the Public Sector Performance Unit.
Mr Lance Worrall has been a long-term economics adviser and adviser to the Premier, the same Lance Worrall whose thesis for his degree at the University of Adelaide Department of Politics went under the title of Marxist Theory and the State. It is interesting to look at the sort of economic advice that this government has been getting for the last few years. I guess we are now going to see—in terms of public sector performance management—some gems from that particular contribution. I will refer briefly to only two. I will quote from the introductory section of his thesis, under ‘Marx and Engels’:
“On the eve of the appearance of Capital, Marx could justly claim to note the economic base of capitalism with the precision of natural science.
That is an extraordinary contention. Nevertheless, it goes on:
Marx and Engels could not claim to have analysed either the state or the political processes in a comparable manner. The lack of a systematic and sustained account of the political superstructures of capitalism is surely a matter of some importance, with significant political and theoretical implications.”
As I have said, there are many gems in the considered work of Mr Worrall. I will just quote one last one for the record. On page 44 of his thesis, he states:
“The political forms resulting from determinate conjuncture of the class struggle are thus irreducible to the effects of struggle between the two antagonistic classes of the ‘pure’ capitalist mode of production, as depicted in the Communist Manifesto. In its schema, the capitalist mode has complete dominance in the social formation, progressively simplifying class foundations and antagonism into the contradictions between bourgeoisie and proletariat, via dissolution of antediluvian and intermediate classes, and elimination of mediaeval prejudices, making for the unfettered and demystified conduct of class struggle. Its corresponding conception of the capitalist state as the executive committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie is, as noted above, not its misrepresentation as the passive instrument of an economically dominant class. On the contrary, it embodies a social and political relation between social classes.”
I am sure that it is clear to all members exactly the point that Mr Worrall is driving home in his thesis, Marxist Theory and the State. It is perhaps not surprising that this state and this government, if that is the quality of the economic advice that the Premier has been receiving, is confronting some of the problems of both an economic and a social nature at the moment. Clearly, that sort of thinking, in the Premier’s view, well suits him to take on the new senior position of Chief Executive Officer of the Public Sector Performance Unit of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
As I have said, when this was publicised in August of last year, I thought it was an extraordinarily interesting development. Someone who had been loyal to the Premier over many years in opposition and in government was being parachuted into a safe position within the public sector—a very well paid position, because when he left the government he was on an employment package of almost $150,000, and I am sure he did not move into his public sector position for a reduction in salary, although there is obviously some degree of protection there.
I think the point to make, as I go through the early list of 13 that we have put together at the moment, is that, of course, one of the attractions for former spin doctors within the government is that there is protection should there be a change of government in March 2010. A new government does have some flexibility in relation to persons who hold the position of chief executive officer of various departments and, to be fair, we have seen that within the Liberal and Labor governments in the past, and we saw a little bit of that when the Rann government was elected in 2002 as well.
We may well remember someone whose star has risen in recent days but, in 2002, Mr Jim Hallion was frogmarched out of the position of being in charge of the Department of Trade and Economic Development because the government believed that he was not up to that particular job. Of course, he has now risen to some prominence and his praises are being sung by minister Conlon, minister Foley and others after a period of time serving in PIRSA (I think) and other agencies.
Whilst any new government has the capacity to make changes to chief executive officer positions, if people are parachuted into well-paid senior management positions no new government has the capacity to make changes at that particular level. No minister has the power under our Public Sector Management Act to walk through the door and say that the head of that particular divisional unit is not going to be employed there, and has no capacity to influence decisions or appointments at that particular level. As I said, that was in August of last year. As a result of that, my office then instituted a comprehensive series of FOI applications. The Leader of the Government might indicate that they are fishing—
The Hon. B.V. Finnigan interjecting:
That was back in August. As a result of that we instituted a comprehensive series of freedom of information applications. As I said, the Leader of the Government tried to demean those freedom of information applications as mere fishing exercises with no point. As I will outline today, we have now managed to put together a comprehensive list of former government spin doctors who have been parachuted into senior Public Service positions over this particular period.
What we have put together is a list of all the government media advisers—about which earlier in question time today the minister was complaining and saying that there was no point in asking for some of this information. We have been able to do cross-referencing in relation to the minister’s spin doctors list (which we have had to get in recent years under FOI), together with the use of the SA Direct service, which is available to all members, indicating the name of the person and the particular position they hold. The positions I will outline today result from the final checking undertaken through SA Direct.
If I could now move through the list of the persons that we have established: Lance Worrall is the first one; then Susan Close, Sylvia Rapo, Paul Summerton, Ben Tuffnell, Geoff Baynes, Danny Bertossa, Brigid Mahoney, Julia Grant and Emma Lawson; and the two who were mentioned by my colleague the Hon. Mr Ridgway yesterday, George Vanco and Lois Boswell; then, finally, Don Frater. As I said, the vast majority of those people have been appointed to these senior positions in the past 12 months and, of course, have not been appointed as a result of the panel process.
Yesterday the Leader of the Government confirmed that Mr Vanco’s and Ms Boswell’s appointments were made without any advertising of the positions or any normal merit based assessment. It will be interesting, over the next couple of weeks, because other information gained through freedom of information indicates that some of the unattached persons being held at the moment were former senior officers within the planning department with planning qualifications.
Now, the Leader of the Government yesterday was indicating that they had to appoint these former Rann government spin doctors to these senior positions because there was no other option; they had to get this department up and going, and the only way they could do it was by parachuting these two officers into the department to fill these well paid positions.
When one has a look at the salaries that most of these people were being paid when they were ministerial advisers one sees that, whilst Mr Worrall’s at $150,000 was the highest of the lot, persons like, for example, Mr Baynes, Mr Tuffnell and Mr Frater were all being paid salaries as chiefs of staff of about $120,000 a year. Some of the other ministerial advisers were being paid salaries from the mid 80s up to about $100,000 as either media or ministerial advisers on ministerial contract within the departments and agencies.
I will work through the list, and I will come back to some of these in a moment with a bit more detail. Susan Close, a former adviser to minister Gago is now holding the position of Executive Director of People and Strategy, Department for Environment and Health. Sylvia Rapo is a former media adviser to Treasurer Foley, who obviously won a new legion of fans this morning when it was revealed that he refused to allow a couple to take his photo at the Clipsal, and a letter of complaint about that appeared in the newspaper this morning. Sylvia Rapo’s position now is Executive Manager of Strategy and Development in the Department for Environment and Heritage. Mr Paul Summerton, who is a former adviser to Treasurer Foley and then minister Wright, is now holding the position of Manager Executive Services, Shared Services in Treasury. Mr Geoff Baynes, who is a former chief of staff to minister Wright, is now the Executive Director (Building Communities), of all things, in Justice. I am not sure what expertise Mr Baynes has as Executive Director of Building Communities in Justice, but that is his well paid new position.
Mr Danny Bertossa, an adviser to minister Weatherill, is now the Director of Policy and Strategy, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation in the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Brigid Mahoney is a former adviser to minister Gago. They all seem to want to leave minister Gago’s office for some reason. I am not sure whether there is a message there; they seem to be queuing up. Ms Mahoney attracted some recent publicity when she was attracted from the left faction to the right faction through last year, with some manoeuvrings which the Hon. Mr Finnigan would be well aware of, and some inducements, and now Brigid Mahoney finds herself as a Senior Policy Consultant in the Department for Health.
Julia Grant, a former adviser to Premier Rann, is now the Director of Sustainability and Industry Partnerships in the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Georgie Vanco who, as the Hon. Mr Ridgway advised yesterday, was an adviser to minister Holloway, is now the Director of Major Projects with Planning SA. Ms Boswell, a former chief of staff to minister Gago (there is another one), is now the Director of Strategy and Sustainability in the Department of Planning and Local Government. Ms Emma Lawson, an adviser to Premier Rann, is now Executive Director (Cabinet Office) of Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Don Frater, former chief of staff to minister Conlon, is now Executive Director (Cabinet Office) in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
In relation to Mr Frater, to be fair, I think he did go via minister Wong’s office federally. He certainly has made it well known that he never much enjoyed working on minister Conlon’s staff and has moved on, but nevertheless he has landed safely in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
Finally, on this list of 13, Ben Tuffnell, a former chief of staff to minister Foley, is now the Manager of Corporate Affairs in the Motor Accident Commission. I think I should note that Mr Tuffnell was a former ministerial liaison officer both when I was there as Treasurer and then for Mr Foley before he went, if I can use the phrase, over to the dark side and became ministerial adviser and finally a well paid chief of staff at $122,000 or something like that, and now he has landed on his feet in the Motor Accident Commission. In relation to that one, and I stand to be corrected, there may well have been a panel process, but I am not sure.
We are in the process today of lodging further FOIs in relation to all of these appointments to establish whether or not the positions were advertised, panels were appointed and the proper merit based appointments were implemented in relation to these. It is our information that the overwhelming majority did not involve merit based appointments with appropriate panels; people were tapped on the shoulder or, as minister Holloway embarrassingly yesterday tried to defend Mr Vanco and Ms Boswell going straight into these positions, he said it was on the basis that, well, they had to get the department up and operating quickly and there was really no-one else they could appoint to those positions.
Some of these people have been very active within the Labor Party. I think, to be fair, some of them have not been very active in the Labor Party, even though they have been part of the ministerial spin doctor contingent advising current Labor government ministers as part of the Rann government. Certainly, all of them in recent times nevertheless have established close associations and connections with Rann government ministers. As I said, if you look at those positions, they are all either chief executive officers, executive directors or directors, basically, within the public sector.
The only position that sounds less prestigious and important—although it may be paid as much—is that of Ms Mahoney who is a senior policy consultant. Everyone else is a director, executive director, chief executive officer or manager within a government department or agency. There is no doubt that some of them would be paid significantly in excess $100,000, and it is my judgment that virtually all of them would be paid more than $100,000 (total employment cost package) in these new positions. In fact, I suspect that a small number of them may be nudging close to $200,000 a year at a time when this government is crying poor and indicating that it has to cut back right across the board.
There appears to be one rule for those in the disability sector, the hospital sector, the schools sector or those in rural and regional communities who are arguing for additional bus services or hospital services: you have to cut everything and cut it to the bone. However, when it comes to Rann government spin doctors and advisers, they grow like Topsy within the ministers’ offices. When these people move on, those positions in the ministerial offices do not disappear; they are replaced immediately. They are being parachuted into safe, secure and well paid positions within the public sector in order to give them a degree of protection over future years.
This is not just about the issue of appointments and parachuting spin doctors into the public sector. I asked a question in early March about the appointment processes in relation to Ms Noske being appointed to the department of the Minister for Urban Development and Planning in a position of strategic communications. I note from the comment that Ms Noske was a former Labor government ministerial staffer—many years ago, to be fair. Regarding the process that was outlined to me in terms of her position, again, it would seem that the position was not advertised, no panel was appointed, and there was no true merit-based appointment in relation to the selection for what is a job of $120,000 a year, plus a car.
I put those questions to the minister on 5 March and, some two or three weeks later, we do not have a reply. That is not surprising; we are still waiting for answers from minister Holloway to questions that were asked seven years ago. Clearly, if something was wrong in relation to the question that I asked, I am sure minister Holloway would have been in the council very quickly, trying to highlight the point. The minister’s silence, I think, indicates the substantive accuracy of the information that has been put on the public record.
Again, this highlights one of the problems with an arrogant government that has been in power for almost eight years. It now feels that it can do what it wishes in relation to appointments. If it wants to parachute its spin doctors into senior positions, it will do so. If it wants to move someone to another department, it will do so. If it wants to appoint more ministerial spin doctors across the board, it will do so.
In the interests of trying to get through the program, I will not make all of my contribution today, but I want to repeat the detail of a claim that I made on 9 February 2005, to which there has been no response at all from the government. I made a serious accusation in the chamber in relation to the appointment process for Mr Mark Johns when he was appointed the CEO of the Department of Justice.
I will not read all my contribution on page 959 of Hansard, but I indicated that over a period of six months there had been a process of trying to appoint a new CEO of that particular department and that the Premier had wanted Mr Mark Johns to be appointed. Mr Mark Johns had prominent supporters in people such as Mr Alexandrides in the Premier’s own office, Debbie DePalma (within the Justice Department at the time) who had contacts with the Premier’s wife, and others in the Premier’s office who were lobbying for Mr Johns—and the Premier lobbied for Mr Johns. I outlined in that contribution that, after a number of panel processes, Mr Johns had not been appointed and that the Premier had a meeting with Mr McCann (the then CEO of the department) and the Attorney-General. On the record I said:
“At that meeting the Premier told Mr McCann, ‘You were told what to do to get [Mark] Johns up and you have failed.’ I will repeat that. The Premier told Mr McCann at that meeting, ‘You were told what to do to get Johns up and you have failed.’
“At that meeting the Premier turned to the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr Atkinson) and said, ‘Will you oppose his [Mark Johns] appointment?’ Surprise, surprise, Mr Atkinson said, no, he would not oppose the appointment of Mr Johns to the position of chief executive.”
After a period of panels which did not result in the appointment of Mr Johns and which recommended various other people, Mr Johns was appointed chief executive of the department. As I said, that was supposedly a panel-based, merit-based appointment process.
Governments in the past (both Liberal and Labor), particularly at the start of a term, have taken it upon themselves to make changes in relation to chief executive officer positions. However, once a panel process is established you are required to abide by the guidelines of the Commissioner for Public Employment in relation to panel processes; and that should cover everyone, including the Premier, the Chief Executive Officer of the Department for the Premier and Cabinet and the Attorney General. At that time, I outlined the detail in relation to that case and now, four years later, there has been no reply from anyone in relation to that particular set of circumstances. Everyone knows the sensitivity of the Attorney-General if anyone dares indicate anything he disagrees with or thinks is inaccurate: he is on the record very quickly correcting it. In four years there has been no indication of that, nothing from the Premier, and nothing—not that I would have expected it—from Mr McCann as the chief executive of the department.
So, we have some significant problems right across the board—not just those I have talked about of parachuting ministerial spin doctors into the Public Service, most without advertising, panels and appropriate merit-based appointments but also problems relating to the moving of people within departments and without appropriate processes. I have highlighted examples on the record relating to the appointment of chief executives.
In seeking leave to conclude my remarks today, I indicate that a significant amount of information we have received so far has come from freedom of information requests we have submitted, but significant leads have also been provided through my Facebook site and through website responses I have received from, in the main, anonymous whistleblowers within the Public Service. I have been required to double check such information to ensure it is correct, but it is an indication that the use of websites, Facebook and other interactive sites is helpful.
The technological troglodytes in this chamber like the Hon. Mr Finnigan and others shy away from any sort of interaction with the real world, whether it be through a website, Facebook or Twitter, and do not understand or appreciate the capacity this gives to people who, if they want to identify themselves, can do so to provide information and follow up but who in many cases provide such information as whistleblowers. People go to a lot of trouble to protect their identity. A number of people provided information for this contribution and, when you try to reply to the email address, they have constructed their address so that you cannot reply to them. No response is received. One, innovatively labelled ‘Don’s party’, has been a regular provider of whistleblowing information about goings on at senior levels of various government departments and agencies.
I wrap up my conclusion on that basis, because I will place this contribution on my website and an extract on Facebook, and through those forums I encourage whistleblowers within the public sector, who have information and wish to blow the whistle on the Rann government in terms of its arrogance and excesses in this area, to provide further information so that the opposition is able to pursue the government and hold it to account in terms of some of these processes. I seek leave to conclude my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.