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Kathryn Campbell Quits $900,000 Top Defence Job After Robodebt Royal Commission Report

News comes days after confirmation Campbell was suspended without pay from senior Aukus advisory position with Department of Defence

Former senior public servant Kathryn Campbell has resigned from her $900,000 a year Department of Defence job in the wake of the robodebt royal commission report.

In a statement issued on Monday afternoon, the department said: “Defence can confirm it has accepted Kathryn Campbell’s resignation from the department with effect from Friday 21 July 2023.”

The department said it would “not provide further comment on this matter”.

The news comes days after confirmation that Campbell had been suspended without pay from her senior Aukus advisory position following the royal commission report into the robodebt scandal.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, told ABC Radio last Thursday that he would not “comment on individual cases in detail” because of “processes in place”.

But he said the royal commission was “very clear about failings” in the former government and the bureaucracy surrounding the rollout of the robodebt scheme.

“It’s appropriate that there be a response to that,” Albanese said.

Shortly after last year’s election, Campbell was moved out of her then role as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and into a newly created Aukus-related position in the senior ranks of Defence.

Guardian Australia revealed last year that Campbell retained the conditions of employment from her previous role as Dfat secretary, when she had a total annual remuneration package of $889,853. That included a base salary of $767,529 and superannuation of $102,635.

Campbell was suspended without pay, effective Monday 10 July – three days after the royal commission report was tabled.

The decision to resign likely means Campbell will be paid out any unused leave.

But a resignation does not necessarily close off potential investigations under the Australian public service code of conduct.

Agency procedures typically state that if an employee resigns during the course of such an investigation, an agency head can choose whether or not to continue the process to determine whether a breach of the code has occurred.

Further comment was sought from the government.

The assistant minister for trade, Tim Ayres, said the government had been careful to follow “proper processes”.

Ayres said the government had launched the robodebt royal commission to “make sure we get to the bottom of what has happened here”.

He told ABC TV the robodebt scheme was “a cruel, illegal, unfair process that has demonised some of the most vulnerable Australians and put people in a terrible position”.

The royal commission report said Campbell, a former head of the Department of Human Services, had been “responsible for a department that had established, implemented and maintained an unlawful program”.

But Campbell “did nothing of substance” when exposed to information that brought to light the illegality of income averaging, the report said, and “failed to act” when presented with opportunities to obtain legal advice.

Independent MPs had called on Campbell to consider her future following the robodebt reports findings, while the government came under pressure to act.

The royal commission report found Campbell knew of both the intended use of income averaging in the robodebt program and advice from the Department of Social Services that legislative change was needed, but did nothing to change the policy proposal that went to government.

It found she did so because she knew Scott Morrison wanted to “pursue the proposal and that the government could not achieve the savings” that were promised without income averaging.

Campbell has not responded to media requests for comment after the royal commission report, but at the hearings Campbell defended her handling of the matter and said she had assumed the scheme was lawful despite earlier advice raising serious questions.

During questioning at the royal commission, Campbell said: “I have never been in a department that sought to mislead. And I have never been involved in an operation that has sought to mislead the government.”

Source : The Guardian