SES commissioner Murray Kear quits, 9 more may go

Murray Kear in 2011. Picture: ROBERT PEET
Murray Kear in 2011. Picture: ROBERT PEET

State Emergency Services commissioner Murray Kear has resigned and the organisation has begun ‘‘major structural changes’’ that will force at least nine of its Wollongong-based senior staff members to reapply for their positions.

Mr Kear tendered his resignation, effective at close of business on Thursday.

It comes after an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry found the commissioner had acted corruptly.

The state corruption watchdog also found Mr Kear failed to investigate serious allegations deputy commissioner Tara McCarthy had raised about another SES deputy commissioner, Steven Pearce, who he was friends with.

Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres said Fire & Rescue NSW deputy commissioner Jim Smith would continue as acting commissioner.

On Thursday morning, Mr Smith held a meeting with SES staff and volunteers at Wollongong Town Hall to discuss the organisation’s direction.

Mr Smith said the town hall meeting was to explain the major changes, as well as to clarify the organisation’s direction following two recent inquiries.

‘‘That [ICAC inquiry] was really only about Commissioner Kear... and after that we had a public service commission inquiry,’’ he said.

The inquiry was to examine governance and procedures within the SES and has yet to be released.

Mr Smith said the decision to force senior SES staff to reapply for their jobs was due to changes in the NSW government’s GSE act, introduced in February, and affected the employment of all public sector workers.

Earlier in June, the SES Volunteers Association announced it had lost confidence in the Wollongong-based senior executive group.

Mr Smith said the executive group was now ‘‘working on the culture’’ of the SES and had ‘‘put in place a new set of shared values’’. 

‘‘All the senior positions in the organisation will have to be advertised,  so we’re hoping that will change a lot of the culture in the future, bring some more diversity into the organisation,’’ he said.

‘‘Everyone will be re-applying for their positions and the people who win those positions will win them on merit.’’

Mr Smith said he had met  SESVA chair Charlie Moir and had worked through ‘‘a lot of...issues’’. ‘‘It’s about us, are we doing enough and are we communicating enough?’’ he said.

‘‘We’ll be working very hard with the volunteers’ association.’’

Mr Smith said there was also a review under way so that volunteers’ complaints could be better handled. 

‘‘We’ve just spent a whole lot of time developing a new grievance and discipline handling procedure,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ll be working very hard with the volunteers’ association.’’