Access Canberra bureaucrat in hot water over accusations of discrimination, lying under oath

By Melissa Coade

Wednesday June 16, 2021

ACT Legislative Assembly letter to the Prime Minister
(Image: ACT Legislative Assembly)

A public servant’s 10 minute decision to refuse a car dealer’s licence on the grounds that the applicant had a criminal history has led to allegations of maladministration and has been referred to the ACT Public Sector Standards Commissioner.

The ABC reports that an Access Canberra bureaucrat is facing possible sanctions if his behaviour is found to be misconduct under an investigation by the Public Sector Standards Commission.

In January a local man was successful in bringing a discrimination action against the ACT Government over his experience dealing with the Access Canberra bureaucrat. He was awarded $46,766 by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for being denied a motor vehicles sales licence in 2018 over two ‘irrelevant’ road rage convictions.

According to the ABC, the man’s criminal history included a 2016 incident in which he hurled a small sledgehammer through another driver’s windscreen; another conviction two months later was for spitting in the face of another driver during a dispute, landing him a good behaviour bond.

In his discrimination claim before the tribunal, the man said he provided a personal statement explaining the offending on the request of Access Canberra. He explained to government staff in his letter that he had suffered a deterioration in his mental and physical health prior to the road rage events, and subsequently addressed his poor behaviour which had been ‘blinded by ego and pride’.

The tribunal heard that the man’s application for a car dealer’s licence was then rejected by Access Canberra on the grounds of the seriousness and nature of his previous offending.

However, in giving evidence about the man’s application under oath, one public servant involved in rejecting the licence had to backtrack his testimony and recollection of events in a statement made to the tribunal. 

The public servant initially claimed he had attended a Regulatory Advisory Committee meeting during which it was agreed the man’s application should be refused. 

“We said this is the matter … and it’s these convictions and based on … a lack of evidence of any actions being taken to mitigate future occurrences of this behaviour, we don’t believe that a licence should be granted,” he told the tribunal.

“Then there was a discussion and the RAC agreed.”

That position was then reversed when the public servant confessed he did not attend the meeting because he was on leave at the time. 

The bureaucrat’s lie under oath led the successful claimant to then lodge a public interest disclosure, which resulted in a report that suggested there were questions over whether the public servant had time to properly read and consider all the material in the application given he refused it within 10 minutes. 

The report recommended the bureaucrat may not have acted with reasonable care to ensure his evidence was correct, and also that he may not have properly considered or exercised his personal judgment by refusing the licence. 

Access Canberra has now referred the matter onto the commission’s professional standards unit, which will rule on whether there has been misconduct.


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