National Disability Insurance Agency chief executive Martin Hoffman quickly shut down his personal Twitter account on Monday night, after the opposition went for the jugular with claims his past activity showed political bias, but he remains on the platform.
“Tonight I appeared before a Senate Estimates hearing of the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. Two members of the committee raised concerns about some of my social media posts that pre-date my appointment as NDIS CEO.
“I take my role as NDIS CEO very seriously. I am committed to building trusted relationships with stakeholders. It would be unfair if my reflections about issues unrelated to the NDIS are used to compromise the integrity of the Scheme and my leadership of the NDIA.
“For that reason I have decided to close my private social media account and establish my NDIS account because I think it’s important for NDIS participants and providers to hear directly from the NDIS CEO.”
The view at the agency is that the CEO must communicate directly with stakeholders. “An important part of Mr Hoffman’s role as NDIS CEO is to directly connect with participants, providers and the sector,” a spokesperson told The Mandarin. “Together with face-to-face discussions and meetings, social media is another important platform for him to do so.”
The opposition kept up the pressure yesterday, with new claims that more of Hoffman’s social media activity displayed political bias – and that his pay packet is too fat. “Posts supportive of Liberal MPs and critical of Labor remain on his LinkedIn account,” according to a joint statement issued on Thursday by NDIS spokesperson Bill Shorten and senator Deborah O’Neill, who led the charge in Monday’s estimates hearing.
“And eight days into his job, without solving one of the many issues besieging the NDIS, Mr Hoffman has been gifted an outrageous $166,260 bonus on top of his pay packet of $554,220.”
The Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, declared his “absolute confidence” in the new CEO at the National Press Club yesterday.
“I actually believe in freedom of speech, and if my CEO [was active] on social media before he was a member of my executive team, well, he enjoys the freedom of speech that everyone else here enjoys,” Robert said. “We shouldn’t be judging people on what they put on social media prior to joining an organisation. Martin Hoffman is an extraordinary Australian with extraordinary lived experience.”
The minister echoed Hoffman’s own defence of his public service record on Monday night, noting he was promoted by governments of both political persuasions in New South Wales and previously in the Australian Public Service. Department of Social Services secretary Kathryn Campbell said the tweeting happened before he got the job so it was none of her business.
Robert said he was particularly impressed by Hoffman’s role leading the department responsible for Service NSW, which he described as one of the best examples of government service delivery in the world. The strategy produced by the Services Australia transition taskforce, led by Hoffman, was “an extraordinary piece of work” in the minister’s view.
“I absolutely and utterly reject any assertion that he is not a public servant of the highest calibre. He enjoys my absolute confidence.”
Labor also says Helen Nugent, who chairs the NDIA board, is conflicted due to her former role as a director of Macquarie Group and her use of an office and email account owned by the banking group to conduct NDIS business, creating a privacy risk.
“Because of Ms Nugent’s actions NDIA staff will now have to chase down emails containing NDIA information on private servers — like Macquarie’s — take them off those servers, return the information to the NDIA, and delete them on those servers.”
According to the minister, the use of external emails by board members for NDIS work “has been going on ever since this scheme was set up” and he is “not satisfied” with the practice.