Jane Halton gives evidence in the Bergin inquiry (Image: Supplied)

Earlier in the week we did a helpful cheat sheet for unprepared Crown directors to help them get through their next appearance at the inquiry into Crown Resorts unscathed. Turns out, we underestimated the need.

Longtime senior public servant Jane Halton fronted the inquiry yesterday, and, apart from lapses of a “fragile memory”, she appeared to be amazingly incurious (or at the very least credulous) about what went on at the company she was tasked to oversee.

Regarding the incident when she and the other board directors signed a letter (run as a full page newspaper advert headed, “Setting the record straight in the face of a deceitful campaign against Crown”) making assertions that the inquiry has since heard to be false, she said she made numerous enquiries to prior to signing, and, at the time, believed the letter to be factual.

The famously tough and assured Halton further said she had felt “pressured” and subsequently came to feel that a “number of assurances and facts as they were presented were proven not to be reliable”.

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It’s not her first lapse of memory, nor the first time she’s displayed a curious lack of curiosity.

Back in the early 2000s, in her period as deputy secretary of the Department Prime Minister and Cabinet, Halton was convener of the People Smuggling Taskforce during the children overboard affair.

During the senate committee that followed, she was grilled as to the role she played in the government spreading the lie that asylum seekers, stranded on a Norwegian freighter, had thrown their children overboard.

As the committee found, the same day Halton received a chronology from the Defence Department asserting that there was no evidence for the children overboard claim, then-defence minister Peter Reith called her and said he had just released photographs to the media which “showed children having been thrown into the water”:

Although Ms Halton maintained that she had no recollection of having been shown the chronology … she imagined that any doubt that may have been raised by this information was simply overridden by the evidence of which Mr Reith spoke.

Ms Halton insisted that, in addition to the advice from Mr Reith, and the lack of any definitive advice from Defence confirming that the incident did not happen, ‘our interpretation of the facts of the case’ was put in front of the evening meeting of the People Smuggling Taskforce, and no one demurred from the view that it had been established that children had been thrown overboard.

Some argued that Halton’s grilling made her the “fall girl” for a government scandal. Still, it required her to at the very least display a certain incuriosity inconsistent with her role.

Ca plus ca change.