‘Multiple breaches’ behind Pezzullo sacking

Michael Pezzullo has been sacked following a code of conduct breach finding.

Michael Pezzullo has been sacked following a code of conduct breach finding. Photo: AAP

Former Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo was sacked after multiple breaches of the public service code, it has emerged.

Pezzullo, one of Canberra’s most powerful public servants, was sacked as head of the department by the Governor-General in council on Monday.

It came two months after he was stood down amid a text message scandal.

His termination from his $900,000-a-year job, with about a year to run on his contract, was confirmed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The leaked messages revealed Pezzullo had repeatedly inserted himself into the political process. They show how he lobbied for his department and pushed his personal views, in breach of public service standards, across a five-year period.

It is not suggested the messages show corrupt or illegal conduct.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil referred the matter to the Australian Public Service Commissioner in September, after concerns were raised following media reporting of the messages.

Lynelle Briggs, who headed the inquiry, found Pezzullo breached the code of conduct at least 14 times in relation to five overarching allegations.

They were using his duty, power, status or authority to seek to benefit or advantage himself, engaging in gossip and disrespectful critique of ministers, failing to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive government information, failing to act apolitically and failing to disclose a conflict of interest.

Also on Monday, Australian Public Service Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer Dr de Brouwer said Briggs had “recommended that Mr Pezzullo’s appointment as a Secretary be terminated pursuant to section 59 of the Public Service Act”.

The termination came days after regulatory changes last week that slashed compensation obligations owed to department secretaries who are found to have breached the public service code of conduct.

The Community and Public Sector Union welcomed the decision. National secretary Melissa Donnelly said Pezzullo’s position was untenable with his reported conduct going against impartiality principles.

“The termination of Michael Pezzullo as secretary of the Department of Home Affairs is an appropriate and necessary step,” she said.

She said the public service code of conduct needed to apply at all levels of employment, from graduates to middle management and department heads.

“Far too often we have seen everyday public servants being held to a higher standard than their bosses,” she said.

Veteran bureaucrat Stephanie Foster will continue to act as Home Affairs secretary until a new head is found.

The text messages showed Pezzullo using a political back channel to get the ear of two former prime ministers through Liberal powerbroker Scott Briggs.

He suggested some ministers be sacked and which MP should oversee his department.

The texts showed Pezzullo wanted Peter Dutton, now the federal Opposition Leader, to become home affairs minister.

-with AAP

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