Guess who’s in charge of running Kevin Rudd’s festival of egos and lobbyists, the 20/20 Summit? A woman from Hobart called Linda Hornsey. And who is Linda Hornsey? She is a 56-year-old former right hand person to Tasmanian Labor Premiers Jim Bacon and Paul Lennon. And she is the person who played a key role in the downfall of deputy premier Steve Kons, who resigned yesterday as result of his misleading the Tasmanian Parliament this week.

Mr Kons, as Attorney-General, had signed a cabinet document appointing the man heading an independent inquiry into the Gunns pulp mill, Simon Cooper, to the Tasmanian Magistrates Court. Cooper had been critical of certain aspects of the proposed pulp mill, although his family had been strong political supporters of Paul Lennon for many years. Hornsey, as the head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet told Kons that Cooper shouldn’t be appointed to the magistracy, and allegedly instructed Kons to shred the document he had signed appointing Cooper. That document was painstakingly pieced back together by Greens MP Kim Booth and used to engineer Mr Kons’ resignation yesterday.

Hornsey is no stranger to political controversy and like former Howard mandarin Max Moore Wilton, plays fast and loose with the traditional notion that the public service in the Westminster system should not only be impartial, but be seen to be impartial.

Max The Axe famously attended John Howard’s 2001 election victory night party and during the July 2002 Tasmanian State election, Hornsey, with a bevy of senior bureaucrats, attended Premier Jim Bacon’s ALP campaign launch. As Martine Haley of the Hobart Mercury noted at the time, in attending the launch Hornsey and her colleagues gave “up the pretence of independence once and for all.”

Before heading the Tasmanian Public Service Hornsey was a journalist who worked for the ALP for many years. She has, in short, spent the vast bulk of her working life, working with the ALP in opposition and government. And now another ALP government is utilising her services – this time the Rudd government which has given her a plum job in Prime Minister and Cabinet, running the secretariat organising the celebrity talkfest.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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