A senior bureaucrat has been suspended without pay from a plum defence department job less than a fortnight after the robodebt royal commission made scathing findings against her.
Kathryn Campbell, who oversaw the rollout of the illegal income averaging scheme as secretary of the Department of Human Services, was stood down from her $900,000-a-year advisory job at defence just three days after commissioner Catherine Holmes tabled her report.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the royal commission findings were “very clear about failings” and confirmed Ms Campbell had been suspended without pay.
“This was a decision made by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and appropriate bodies,” Mr Albanese told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“It’s not appropriate, given the potential legal matters that are involved, to go through all of the details here. But certainly, there’s been an appropriate response from my department, and from the public service to the royal commission findings.”
“I’m not going to go into those details, because individuals do have have rights as well and will go through appropriate processes.
“One of the things the royal commission was about was making sure we get proper processes, that we don’t have the sort of governance arrangements whether it be some of the actions of the public service, but more particularly … the actions of government ministers from the time that robodebt was introduced and then kept it going for four and a half years, in spite of the fact that it was an illegal scheme.”
Ms Campbell was signalled out in the report’s findings, with the royal commission blasting the public servant for repeatedly failing to act on the scheme’s flaws.
“Ms Campbell had been responsible for a department that had established, implemented and maintained an unlawful program,” the royal commission report said.
“When exposed to information that brought to light the illegality of income averaging, she did nothing of substance. When presented with opportunities to obtain advice on the lawfulness of that practice, she failed to act.”
During questioning at the royal commission, Ms Campbell denied intentionally misleading the government.
“I have never been in a department that sought to mislead. And I have never been involved in an operation that has sought to mislead the government,” she said.
Ms Campbell served as secretary of the Department of Human Services from March 2011 to September 2017 before being promoted to lead the Department of Social Services and then Foreign Affairs and Trade.
She was dumped by Labor after its election win but was then handed the $900,000-a-year job on the AUKUS security pact in the Department of Defence last June.