Thursday, 27 February 2020
Public Servants and Estimates
On behalf of Senator Keneally I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) Australian public servants work extremely hard to prepare for estimates hearings, with an overriding spirit of acting ethically, respectfully, impartially and with accountability,
(ii) leadership by Ministers and Secretaries is essential to supporting public servants as they prepare for estimates hearings and as public servants prepare responses to questions on notice,
(iii) the quality of the answers to questions on notice provided by the Department of Home Affairs to senators following the October 2019 Estimates round raises questions about whether details or explanations are being withheld from public scrutiny without sufficient explanation as to why,
(iv) Senator Keneally wrote to the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs on 11 February 2020, and provided the Secretary with five case studies to demonstrate concerns that questions may not be being answered with a spirit of accountability and transparency that the Senate expects,
(v) Senator Keneally asked the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs to re-examine the Department's responses to all of its questions on notice from the October 2019 Estimates round, and to correct any omissions or lack of transparency, by 24 February 2020, and
(vi) as of 2:00 pm on 26 February 2020, the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs has not responded to the senator's letter;
(b) in advance of next week's estimates hearings, thanks the Australian Public Service for their commitment to acting ethically, respectfully, impartially and with accountability;
(c) calls on the Secretary for the Department of Home Affairs to re-examine the Department's responses to all of its questions on notice from the October 2019 Estimates, and to correct any omissions or lack of transparency by 28 February 2020; and
(d) ahead of Additional Estimates next week, reminds the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs of his obligation to the Australian Public Services Values, including to the Australian public's right to know.
Senator Keneally's motion is a stunt that represents an extraordinary attack on the integrity and professionalism of the hardworking executive and staff of the Department of Home Affairs. This motion, once again, illustrates Labor's long-held contemptuous attitude towards Australia's law enforcement and national security agencies. The men and women of Home Affairs work tirelessly to keep our borders secure and keep Australian families safe, as demonstrated through their outstanding response to the unfolding coronavirus outbreak. Further, it's their work that protects Australian democracy and safeguards the Australian values we hold dear. Senator Keneally is using her position of influence to attempt to bully and intimidate career public servants who've dedicated their working lives to serving the Australian people. This motion is a disgrace, and it should be withdrawn.