PM refusing to say whether Home Affairs boss survives

Andrew Brown and Alex Mitchell |

The prime minister is refusing to say whether sidelined Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo is likely to remain in his post.

Mr Pezzullo has stood aside while an urgent investigation takes place into leaked text messages he sent to a Liberal Party insider.

A trove of texts exposed by Nine Entertainment showed Mr Pezzullo repeatedly inserting himself into the political process over a five-year period, lobbying for his department and pushing his personal views, in breach of public service standards.

Anthony Albanese was grilled about the senior public servant during a press conference on Tuesday but refused to say whether he would survive.

“We will have the inquiry that’s been established through the Public Service Commissioner,” he said in Adelaide.

“We will not respond to the detail before that inquiry, but I see it as an urgent matter.

“You have an independent inquiry so that you hear from the inquiry not so that you pre-empt it. That’s what we’re doing.”

Liberal senator Simon Birmingham said it was unlikely Mr Pezzullo would return to his position.

“He deserves the right to have a proper process but clearly the odds are stacked against in terms of the concerns that are being weighed,” he told Sky News.

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie praised Mr Pezzullo’s work but said the boundaries between politics and public service needed to be observed.

Media union boss Karen Percy said reports of Mr Pezzullo pushing the government to criminalise reporting on whistleblower-sourced stories were particularly alarming.

“D-notices have been used during wartime on rare occasions for the protection of national security … but Australia is not at war and there is no justification for their use now,” she said.

“This is just one example of a very disturbing problem that goes beyond one man … successive governments have done little to improve press freedom and as a consequence, we have seen Australia’s slip in world rankings.”