The top bureaucrat tasked with reviewing decisions made by former Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney has poured water on concerns still held by the public service union around the process of that review.
The comments come after Labor flagged plans to formally refer the matter to the Integrity Commission at the weekend – a move welcomed by the union.
The Community and Public Service Union had questioned the process of the review conducted by Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Jenny Gale, under which they said staff who indicated they may have relevant information were neither spoken to nor given assurances they would not face repercussions.
That review found no concerns with Ms Courtney’s decisions during the period of her relationship with department secretary John Whittington, who was cleared to return to the role.
Ms Gale told The Examiner while there was a requirement for public servants to maintain confidentiality of information obtained through their employment, this would not override the ability of an employee to participate in an investigation or utilise other available avenues to raise concerns.
“These avenues consist of internal grievance procedures and making disclosures under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2002.”
“Additionally, State Service employees are able to take concerns in relation to the Tasmanian Public Sector directly to the Integrity Commission.”
CPSU secretary Tom Lynch said Ms Gale had missed the point.
“No one ever asked them to speak to an investigator,” Mr Lynch said.
“Did she think they were just going to pick up the phone and call her as the head of the State Service.”
“Suggesting an internal grievance process is suitable is suggesting that a DPIPWE employer raise concerns about their head of agency, with their head of agency.”
“Why would a DPIPWE employee have to go to the Integrity Commission when the Premier initiated two investigations? Why couldn’t their concerns have been addressed through one of those investigations?”
A second review conducted by Damien Bugg QC found Ms Courtney should have disclosed the relationship earlier, though regarded the breach as minor.
Cabinet reshuffles following the release of the reports moved Ms Courtney into the Resources and the Building and Construction portfolios, with Guy Barnett taking over as Primary Industries Minister and Elise Archer now also Minister for Racing.
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