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Salary mix-up hits ACT Liberals

Date

Noel Towell

ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja had to approach the government last year for tens of thousands of dollars to run his taxpayer-funded office after a clerical error by the Assembly workplace authority resulted in a potential salary overspend of nearly $20,000.

But when he approached the Chief Minister's office for $40,000, Katy Gallagher only agreed to give $19,000, saying his office continued overspending three months after being told of the mistake. Mr Seselja's office disputes this claim.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show Mr Seselja's office was told in August it had been the victim of a mistake by the Assembly workplace authority, leaving the Opposition Leader with a potential overspend in his workers' salaries of $19,000 this financial year.

Ms Gallagher also told Mr Seselja Liberal members could ''pledge'' half their staff salary entitlements to their leader's office to cover the overspend.

In his letter written to the Chief Minister on November 28, Mr Seselja stressed the mix-up was the fault of the Assembly's Corporate Services division and not that of his office.

''I would like to take the opportunity to provide you with my assurance that I am satisfied that this was error [sic] that occurred entirely by accident by Corporate Services and had nothing to do with the Opposition whatsoever,'' Mr Seselja wrote.

But in her reply, Ms Gallagher chided him for not approaching her for more than three months.

''In considering your request I acknowledge that your office is now overspent [sic] around $19,000 in 2011-12 financial year,'' the Chief Minister wrote.

''I also note that you wish to continue to overspend your salary budget and have requested a total of $40,000 be allocated to allow you to continue your current staffing arrangements.

''I believe it would have been more appropriate therefore that this over spend could have been minimised by taken [sic] action several months ago when the matter was first identified.''

In a statement to The Canberra Times, Mr Seselja said the matter had been resolved in a way that allowed him to keep his current staffing profile. ''Due to a mistake by corporate services, a situation arose where an individual would have had to have been made redundant if no action had been taken. We worked with Corporate Services and the Chief Minister's office to resolve the issue, which ensured that no staff member was forced out of work.''

Ms Gallagher's office declined to comment.

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