Australia PM fires a top bureaucrat over influence probe


By Alasdair Pal

SYDNEY, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Australia's top civil servant in its interior ministry was sacked on Monday after an inquiry found he breached impartiality rules.

Michael Pezzullo, the powerful head of the department responsible for internal security, stepped aside in September while the investigation was conducted.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement on Monday the inquiry found breaches of the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct, which requires bureaucrats to be impartial, apolitical, and avoid conflicts of interest.

It was not immediately possible to reach Pezzullo for comment.

The inquiry followed a joint investigation by two Australian newspapers and a TV programme that alleged Pezzullo had intervened in politics to promote favoured politicians, attack opponents and push for media censorship.

In some of the thousands of messages sent on Signal and WhatsApp messaging apps over a five-year period, Pezzullo pushed a powerbroker for the opposition Liberal Party - which was then in government - for a new home affairs minister to be a "right winger", as well as calling for cuts to the attorney general's department, according to the media reports.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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