The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:46 :44 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking questions of the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills about unanswered questions.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I would have waited until some time next year to ask the minister this question but, as we all seem to know because it is the worst kept secret in state parliament, for minister Gago next week will be her last week in the chair as Leader of the Government and taking questions. We are not sure who will fill that chair but I am sure we will get a better response to our questions when we come back next year.
Earlier this year I asked some questions around Ms Jillian Pyle and the Semaphore Hotel. I will quickly recap. She runs a hotel and she also worked in the Public Service in her office in Waymouth Street where taxpayers were paying her salary to help prepare young South Australians for the workforce. She was working on what should be on the pub menu, seeing if she could get more trade through a street fair and even discussing whether she could get away with substituting cheaper species of expensive fish without disclosing it on the menu.
On 23 July this year the minister told the estimates committees that an investigation had been launched in May and that the investigation was still underway. So, we asked a range of questions about when it had been completed, what was the result, had any action been taken against Ms Pyle, and was she being paid during the period she was stood down? We got a response from the minister and we understand that Ms Pyle has been stood down on full pay.
I then asked that question again just a couple of weeks ago and got the same non-answer from the minister. I have done a little more research and I expect that if Ms Pyle has been stood down since the beginning of May—and I suspect her salary is somewhere around $94,000 to $95,000 a year—she has earnt some $55,000 to $60,000. If you add on the superannuation and other benefits, it is probably closer to $70,000 since she was stood down in May. My questions are:
1.Will the minister provide an answer to this chamber before she retires as the minister in three sitting days' time?
2.Does the minister think it is reasonable that somebody be paid nearly $60,000 to $70,000 while an investigation is undertaken?
3.When does the minister expect that investigation to be completed?
4.Will the minister bring back an answer to those questions before she seeks retirement in three sitting days' time?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:49 :26 ): Dream on. I thank the member for his question. Again we see another stunning example of absolute cutting political edge. This woman allegedly misused her email. That is the allegation. She allegedly misused her email, and that is the cutting-edge question that we get from the Leader of the Opposition during question time today. It is just woeful. What a woeful excuse of an opposition you are. They should all hang their head together in shame—absolutely woeful.
As I said, they have me all to themselves here today and this is what we get: old hacked out questions. I have already answered this question in full. The woman is under investigation; the investigation has not been completed. I can absolutely assure you that as soon as the investigation has been completed an answer will be provided—
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Well, due process has to be done. Fortunately, on this side of the chamber, a person is innocent until proven guilty. They are the values that we have on this side of the chamber. Woe is us: innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, due process must be done. This woman who is alleged to have misused her email—justice will be done. I can assure you that justice will be done. The investigation will be completed when all matters are done and I can absolutely assure the chamber that as soon as the investigation is completed an answer will be provided to this chamber.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:51 :30 ): Supplementary question: will the minister bring back a time frame from her agency in the next three sitting days (next week), her final three days as minister and Leader of the Government, to give us some comfort? All we expect is an answer, a simple answer for a simple question.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:51 :48 ): The honourable Leader of the Opposition should hang his head in shame. As I said, what a truly pathetic use of question time. I have already answered the question. I have said that the investigation has not been completed and, as soon as it is completed, an answer will be provided.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:52 :11 ): Further supplementary question: are any other members of your agency under investigation for similar breaches of the Public Service code of conduct and are they taking a similar amount of time?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:52 :23 ): Not that I am aware of at this particular point in time, but I am happy to check that out and bring back an answer.