“She may not be much of a clerk, as she knows nothing about procedure, but I’m happy to accept the panel’s assessment that she’s a first rate chief executive.”
That’s what generous people say about the clerical candidate Carol Mills.
But what evidence is there that she is this high-calibre, fair-minded apostle of the Nolan Principles of Public Life?
An admission she made in a committee hearing in May this year caused an astonished senator to call for, and to be granted, an emergency debate in the Senate followed by an Inquiry (yet to report).
President of the Senate John Hogg described Ms Mills’ admission as “a very serious matter”, saying:
“It is fundamental to the law of parliamentary privilege that any act that has the effect or tendency of constituting improper interference with the free performance by a senator of the senator’s duties as a senator may be treated as a contempt.”
The maximum sentence for contempt includes six months in jail.
Carol Mills took over Canberra’s dysfunctional Department of Parliamentary Services in 2012. Whistleblowers were still releasing information to Senator Faulkner two years later.
Ms Mills’ management response had a dash of Stasi in it: she monitored the comings and goings of the senator’s office by the use of CCTV.
Second, and separately, there is an inquiry – unanimously agreed and sponsored by all parties and Independents in the Senate – into the performance of Ms Mills’ DPS.
This is not a routine appraisal.
The terms of reference are very wide-ranging and will scrutinise every level of this riven department – still considered by some to be the worst-administered department in the Commonwealth, even after two years of Ms Mills ‘ world-class leadership.
Guido repeats the question asked before. Was the panel of selection informed of these inquiries? Was the seriousness of the charges revealed? And if so, what was the panel thinking?
The Clerk is the highest guarantor of parliamentary privilege – they had sitting in front of them someone being investigated for breaching it.
Were they told? And if not , why not?
UPDATE: Looks like we will be getting some movement:
To be clear: if the champion of Parliament does not give Parliament a say on Ms Mills' appointment, I will table a motion on this on Sept 1.
— Jesse Norman (@Jesse_Norman) August 22, 2014
Meanwhile government sentiment seems to be hardening: “Discontent rising,” says one source. “Consulting parliament was supposed to be his USP in the role, after all.”