The President of the Senate says he is "disappointed" after his most senior official launched an extraordinary attack on the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Senate Clerk Rosemary Laing has tried to derail the hiring of DPS Secretary Carol Mills for the job of Clerk of the House of Commons in London, writing the appointment would be "bizarre", "embarrassing" and an "affront".
Ms Mills is the frontrunner for the top job in Britain's Houses of Parliament but her appointment has run into determined opposition from Conservative MPs there who are aghast at the idea of an Australian woman in the role.
Now an email written by Dr Laing, containing a stinging attack on Ms Mills and her professional abilities, has gone public.
Parliamentary public servants in Canberra said many in the building were "shocked" on Monday by the aggression of Dr Laing's language in her email to retiring Commons Clerk Sir Robert Rogers.
Senate President Stephen Parry confirmed on Monday that he had spoken to Dr Laing about her conduct but the Liberal Senator from Tasmania did not provide details of what he said to his clerk.
Senator Parry said he backed Ms Mills for the London job and that it was an "honour" that an official from the Australian Parliament should be considered for the role.
Dr Laing, who works closely with Ms Mills, wrote that staff at Canberra's Parliament House were "utterly taken aback" when they heard the Parliamentary Services boss was in the box seat to win the plum job.
"We were utterly taken aback here when we saw a brief press report in early July that Carol Mills had emerged as 'front runner' to take over from you, and have followed events with increasing disbelief and dismay," Dr Laing wrote.
"It seems impossible someone without parliamentary knowledge and experience could be under consideration for such a role."
Ms Mills' office was not responding on Monday to the attack and Dr Laing's office did not respond to requests for comment.
The Senate Clerk, who recently made headlines for her clash with billionaire MP Clive Palmer over the Queenslander's behaviour towards Senate staffers, wrote that Ms Mills had no understanding of parliamentary procedures.
"Carol comes from the state public service," Dr Laing reportedly wrote.
"It is not [a] simple to move to serving parliament if there is a lack of understanding of parliament."
"DPS heads [such as Mills] have a lack of appreciation and respect for MPs and senators and an over-emphasis on the authority of Presiding Officers."
Dr Laing was outspoken in her criticism of DPS this year after officials using Parliament House's CCTV system to check the whereabouts of employees recorded some of the activities of a senior Labor senator.
The Senate Clerk went further in her email, writing Ms Mills should have resigned over the saga and that it would be "embarassing" if Ms Mills' qualifications had to be examined by a Commons select committee.
"The only thing more embarrassing, in my view, would be to make the proposed appointment," Dr Laing wrote.
Senator Parry confirmed that he had had words with Dr Laing since the contents of the email went public.
"I'm disappointed with some of the content of that email," the president said.
"Since becoming aware of that email, I have spoken to the Clerk of the Senate and I have spoken to the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. I'm not disclosing the content of those conversations."
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