The collusion between Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough and the senior public servant who appeared in the Lateline broadcast on Mutitjulu labelled as an anonymous youth worker appears to run deeper than the minister has previously admitted to. Crikey understands that
senior bureaucrat Gregory Andrews argued with Brough’s office over an agreed set of words before appearing anonymously on the Lateline program.

Crikey understands that Gregory Andrews consulted with Brough’s office the day before his scheduled Lateline interview, and was still consulting with the minister’s office on the day of the interview.

A reliable source has told Crikey that there was communication between Andrews and the minister’s office to get his lines right and that there was also a dispute over the form of one of Andrews’ answers. According to our source, Andrews was concerned that one of his answers could be perceived as dishonest but the argument was later resolved.

Back in early July, Susanne Ferguson, Mal Brough’s spokeswoman, told Crikey, “It had nothing to do with us. It was the
Lateline
program. Lateline were the ones who found the witnesses.”

Yesterday in Parliament MP Kelvin Thomson asked Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough if his office coached Andrews Brough responded:

In preparation for that interview, Mr Andrews sought and
received assistance from the department on liability issues so that he would
not either contravene the Public Service Code of Conduct or in fact make
libellous comments. Those were the reasons. He also provided the information of his notes to my office.
My office did not coach him in any way. What he was referring to was not as a
public servant of the Commonwealth; it was to his time as an officer working on
behalf of the Northern Territory
government in Mutitjulu.

The ministerial code of conduct states:

Ministers
must be honest in their public dealings and should not intentionally mislead
the Parliament or the public. Any
misconception caused inadvertently should be corrected at the earliest
opportunity.

Coaching a public servant within his own office, approving that public servant’s decision to appear on a national current affairs program anonymously, reiterating that public servant’s comments without disclosing his own connection to that person and then defending the outed public servant in Parliament as a whistleblower seems to be stretching the code of conduct rules a little thin…

Peter Fray

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