26 April 2024

Pezzullo breaks his silence and says he didn't have to be sacked

| Chris Johnson
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Michael pezzullo

Former Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo has broken his silence about his sacking. Photo: IPAA ACT.

Former Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo has broken his silence over his sacking for misconduct, saying he accepts he did wrong but doesn’t think he should have been dismissed.

Mr Pezzullo was sacked last November following an investigation into his relationship with NSW Liberal Party powerbroker Scott Briggs and what appeared to be blatant attempts to influence political appointments.

The sacking came after it was revealed Mr Pezzullo had sent more than 1000 encrypted messages over more than five years to Mr Briggs.

The leaked texts often urged Mr Briggs to use his close relationships with former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to ensure conservative ministers were appointed to key portfolios – including in Mr Pezzullo’s areas of responsibility.

Mr Pezzullo’s texts praised Peter Dutton during the 2018 Liberal leadership spill, telling Mr Briggs that if Mr Dutton lost the leadership contest he would like to see “Dutton come back to HA [Home Affairs]” and there was no reason for him to “stay on the backbench that I can see”.

“You need a right winger in there – people smugglers will be watching… please feed that in.”

Mr Briggs’s return texts agreed with Mr Pezzullo whose job became untenable once the story broke and he was stood aside.

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Former APS commissioner Lynelle Briggs was commissioned to conduct an independent inquiry into the behaviour.

Her inquiry found Mr Pezzullo breached the APS Code of Conduct 14 times.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese subsequently sacked Mr Pezzullo on recommendation from Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Glyn Davis and Australian Public Service Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer.

The former secretary fully cooperated with the inquiry and remained silent since it began.

But this week, he appeared on ABC television’s 7.30 program to discuss the matter.

He accepted his behaviour crossed a line, but added his punishment did not have to be as harsh as it was.

“I accepted at the time there had been conduct that fell short of the appropriate standards,” Mr Pezzullo said.

“What I sought to rebut was that they were of such a grievous kind that they warranted a dismissal.

“I put an alternative view that perhaps an appropriate censure or reprimand would have been relevant or appropriate in the circumstance.”

He conceded, however, that using WhatsApp to message Mr Scott was unacceptable.

“A line was crossed in terms of not using established processes to pursue those agendas, whether those agendas related to policy, program, resources, or other benefits, and I paid a price,” Mr Pezzullo said.

The former secretary acknowledged that he needed to learn from the mistakes he had made, although he insisted he was pushing a “bureaucratic agenda” rather than a political one.

“I certainly accept the finding that, no matter how much rough and tumble there is in a place like Canberra, that the gaining of influence and the personal advantage to be gained by way of certain channels of communication, whether it’s to the Prime Minister or anyone else, crosses a line in terms of conduct,” he said.

“I accept that and I’ve paid a price.”

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Mr Pezzullo said Ms Briggs was “scrupulously fair” and “very gracious in her engagement” with him throughout the inquiry.

He said he was “moving on” but hinted at pursuing a further role in national security.

“I just take the view that the universe has got a plan for us all, and in that plan it was to be my destiny, or to be my future to do something different…” Mr Pezzullo said.

“I want to focus on making a positive contribution to our national security but in a very different way now.”

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has not released the full report of the inquiry into Mr Pezzullo, publishing only its major findings.

Lynelle Briggs is no relation to Scott Briggs.

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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