Maharey’s Future Is In Rankin’s Hands
Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey’s future hangs on the legal action instigated by WINZ Chief Executive Christine Rankin, ACT Employment and Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.
“The Government will be forced to give Ms Rankin what could amount to the public service’s largest ever secret golden handshake if they want to avoid a humiliating court hearing for Mr Maharey.
“It was his publicity-seeking personal attacks that led to the decision by Ms Rankin to take legal action. Prior to the election, he called for her head. On April 1, 1999, he said:
'It is time for the duck-shoving to stop and for someone to admit they have failed to deliver the services required. That person should be Christine Rankin. . . Christine Rankin should go. . . (she) has damaged the credibility of the entire public service.’
“Even after Mr Maharey's appointment, he continued with his inept over-the-top sound bites. On December 14 1999, he said that it was impossible to sack Rankin, but he was ‘feeling his way down that track’. Ominously, he stated: ‘We’re doing things in a very deliberate and slow fashion because we have to make sure that everything we do is right.’
“Mr Maharey refused to express confidence in Ms Rankin. On December 20, 1999 he said: 'We’ve made that clear. . . we don’t have confidence.'
“The Minister was immediately warned that his injudicious comments could spark a million-dollar legal battle, and performed an astounding u-turn. The very next day, he stated that Ms Rankin was a ‘good public servant’ whom he was impressed with.
“He had already done far too much harm with his public grandstanding. Mr Maharey irreparably damaged the public perception of Ms Rankin, along with her chances of re appointment. He undermined the integrity of his very own Chief Executive.
“The shock, unilateral decision to merge WINZ with the Ministry of Social Policy is intended to diminish Ms Rankin’s potential pay-out. The Cabinet Committee paper was primarily focussed on the position of the Chief Executive, not the Departments concerned.
“The paper trail will back the legal case mounted by Ms Rankin’s lawyers, and it is certain that the Government will want this huge payoff settled confidentially.
“Mr Maharey’s credibility is in tatters. Any political future he might be able to look forward to depends solely on the outcome of this debacle,” Dr Newman said.