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Maharey’s future in Rankin’s hands - ACT

The State Services Commissioner today faced strong questioning from ACT Social Welfare Spokesman over the relationship between WINZ boss Christine Rankin and Social Services Minister Steve Maharey when he appeared before the Government Administration Select Committee.

Muriel Newman said Steve Maharey made repeated personal attacks on Christine Rankin while in Opposition and declared he had no confidence in her once sworn in as her Minister. “He has now created the unacceptable situation where he will not take action on key issues of accountability, because his public attacks have exposed the Government to the very real risk of Ms Rankin taking a massive personal grievance claim,” she said.

“This inaction is despite his earlier statement that he was worried that the issue might be settled out of Court and the public would never know what happened.

“In effect his future is now in her hands,” she said.

“The Government is now so worried about Maharey’s situation that he was today shielded in question time from having to answer my questions relating to the charter flight incident . Instead, without explanation and at the very last moment my question was passed to a stand in for the Minister of State Services.

Earlier in the day, the State Services Commissioner, Michael Wintringham told the Government Administration Committee that it was “unusual” to have “counselled” a Minister the number of times he has Social Services Minister Steve Maharey. Michael Winteringham said he had counselled Steve Maharey “several times”.

Dr Newman questioned the Commissioner about the confidential out of court settlement between WINZ and the former employee sacked over the charter flight debacle, asking whether the secret settlement meant that the question of culpability - whether Christine Rankin was misled by her staff member or whether the staff member was made a scapegoat - would never be known.

In answering, Michael Wintringham said that it was “unsatisfactory that there is no answer because the matter has not been played out in Court.”

“The commissioner also signalled his concerns to the Committee about the government’s handling of the Ministerial Inquiry into WINZ, saying that he had advised that it should not be a personal performance review of the WINZ Chief Executive, that the outcome should not be prejudged and that natural justice and due process must be observed”, Dr Newman said.

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