On 24 September 2023, the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Dr Gordon de Brouwer, received a referral from the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Clare O'Neil MP, after concerns were raised in the media about the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Mr Michael Pezzullo AO.
In accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act 1999, the Commissioner appointed Ms Lynelle Briggs AO to lead an independent inquiry into these matters and report to the Prime Minister.
The Inquiry was conducted under the provisions of the Public Service Act, and consistent with the principles of procedural fairness.
Ms Briggs determined that Mr Pezzullo breached the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct on at least 14 occasions in relation to 5 overarching allegations, those allegations being that Mr Pezzullo:
used his duty, power, status or authority to seek to gain a benefit or advantage for himself,
engaged in gossip and disrespectful critique of Ministers and public servants,
failed to maintain confidentiality of sensitive government information,
failed to act apolitically in his employment,
failed to disclose a conflict of interest.
By way of sanction, Ms Briggs recommended that Mr Pezzullo’s appointment as a Secretary be terminated pursuant to section 59 of the Public Service Act.
Section 72A of the Public Service Act provides strict restrictions on the disclosure of information obtained as part of an Inquiry into possible breaches of the Code of Conduct. In addition, the Privacy Act 1988 applies to the use and disclosure of personal information obtained during an inquiry. However, given the public nature of the allegations and the importance of upholding confidence in the Australian Public Service, it is in the public interest that the overarching breach findings and the recommended sanction are made available in this case.
No further information regarding the contents of the Inquiry will be provided by the Australian Public Service Commission.