Bradford slack, unprofessional over CSS
The inquiry into possible ministerial interference in the appointment of a new director for the Centre for Strategic Studies has revealed poor judgement but no proven interference on the part of the Minister of Defence said Phil Goff, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.
The select committee inquiry, reported to Parliament today, found no hard evidence of ministerial interference in the failure to reappoint Terence O'Brien as director of the Centre. However, the nature and timing of a letter from Minister of Defence Max Bradford to Mr O'Brien, alleging bias on the part of Mr O'Brien, created the understandable perception of interference.
"There was no hard evidence to support the suspicion that Mr Bradford's known attitude towards Mr O'Brien may have influenced the decisions of the Ministry of Defence officials on the Centre's board. However Mr O'Brien understandably drew that implication from the intemperate letter he received from Mr Bradford a few weeks prior to the announcement of the new director," Phil Goff said.
"Mr Bradford was extremely unwise to have sent the letter, in which he effectively alleged bias on the part of Mr O'Brien in his conduct of a defence policy seminar to which Mr Bradford mistakenly thought no representatives of Government policy had been invited.
"Mr Bradford received his misinformation from sister-in-law Annabel Young. He may have counted on her report to him to be factual and accurate, as a National select committee member, but a simple check with select committee or Centre for Strategic Studies officials would have indicated that she was wrong and saved a lot of subsequent anguish.
"It is particularly slack and unprofessional for a minister to make such an attack on personal integrity on the basis of ill-informed gossip.
"Terence O'Brien was highly respected as director of the Centre for Strategic Studies and his views were perceived as independent, based on fact and sound strategic analysis and free from prejudice and preconceived ideas.
"His replacement, David Dickens, is perceived as closer to the defence establishment and will have to work hard to earn a similar reputation.
"I wish him luck in his role," Phil Goff said.