Ex-Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo to be stripped of Order of Australia

March 29, 2024

Friday 29 March 2024
Angus Mcintyre
The Australian

Former Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo is set to be stripped of his Order of Australia, Sky News have reported.

Mr Pezzullo was sacked by Anthony Albanese in November 2023 over revelations he had been sending text messages to a Liberal lobbyist who was also friends with former Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.

“I regard Mike Pezzullo as an outstanding public servant who worked for governments of both persuasions with energy & commitment,” Mr Abbott told Sky News on Thursday.

“Of all the senior border protection officials from September 2013, he was the one, above all, who was convinced that the boats both could and should be stopped. In my view, his departure from public service is a serious loss to our country.”

A review into Mr Pezzullo’s conduct, ordered by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, found he had broken the Australian Public Service code of conduct at least 14 times and had “used his status to gain a benefit for himself, failing to be apolitical, and engaging in ‘gossip and disrespectful critique’ of ministers”.

Governor-General David Hurley will make the final decision on whether to remove Mr Pezzullo’s AO. The Governor-General is granted the powers to revoke an honour if they find that a person has “behaved or acted in a manner that has brought disrepute to the order”.

Opposition Home Affairs spokesman James Paterson has called on the Prime Minister to intervene in the “incredibly petty” decision to strip Mr Pezzullo of his AO.

“While Mike Pezzullo may not be perfect, he gave decades of professional service to our country & governments of both persuasion (sic),” Mr Paterson wrote on X.

“He achieved many things in the national interest. Stripping his AO is incredibly petty. The PM should intervene to stop it.”

At least 46 people have had their honours removed since the system began in 1960, mostly after being found guilty in criminal or civil trials.

There is no suggestion of any criminality or corruption on the part of Mr Pezzullo.

Mr Pezzullo, a former deputy chief of staff to Labor leader Kim Beazley, had a career as a public servant spanning a quarter of a century. He rose through the ranks to become secretary of the department of immigration and border protection in October 2014.

Pezzullo was appointed the first secretary of the newly-created Department of Home Affairs in December 2017 and served under the Turnbull and Morrison governments. Labor retained him as secretary when it was elected in May 2022.

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