Kathryn Campbell has been suspended without pay from her lucrative senior AUKUS job, making her the first senior head to roll after the robodebt royal commission's findings.
The top bureaucrat, who had been working in the $900,000 a year advisory role within the Department of Defence since July 2022, was involuntarily stood down last Monday, senior government sources confirmed to The Canberra Times.
Ms Campbell had been parachuted into the "special advisor" role by the federal government's most senior bureaucrats in the weeks leading up to her sacking as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in June 2022.
The Department of Defence did not respond to questions regarding her ongoing employment status, or what role she had been in prior to being suspended.
Greens senator Barbara Pocock has raised questions about how Ms Campbell was offered the soft landing, saying "there's every indication in the paperwork that this job was built backwards".
The former secretary's ongoing position within Defence had come under fire in recent weeks after she was adversely named in the robodebt report.
Findings from the royal commission into the scheme found Ms Campbell, on the weight of evidence, gave misleading advice to federal cabinet.
Commissioner Catherine Holmes found Ms Campbell chose not to reference the need for legislative change in the department's cabinet proposal because she knew her then-minister Scott Morrison wanted to pursue the plan.
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said the position of public servants named in the robodebt report was "difficult" for the federal government.
Campbell's 'soft landing' in AUKUS
New documents, released on Tuesday afternoon, showed the Prime Minister and Cabinet Department secretary Glyn Davis and former Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott had created a new role within the AUKUS submarine taskforce for her.
Mr Woolcott wrote to Professor Davis on June 16, 2022 that the new job "could be expected to match [Ms Campbell's] current salary", which at the time was $892,630.
He added the salary would "be set by correspondence between Greg and myself, but could be expected to match her current salary.
"They will give thought to her title, but she will basically be a highly paid band 3," Mr Woolcott wrote to the PM&C secretary.
It was announced Ms Campbell would be replaced in her role as DFAT secretary the following week.
There was no announcement about Ms Campbell's move to the Defence taskforce, where she was initially given the title of deputy secretary.
Senator Barbara Pocock raised questions about the appointment process, which offered Ms Campbell a "golden parachute" into another senior role.
"What kind of job creation scheme comes up with a position out of thin air with a salary package close to $900,000 and a title like 'special advisor'? It all happened very quickly and it suggests this position was tailor made for Ms Campbell," Senator Pocock said.
"There's every indication in the paperwork that this job was built backwards. They had a person who comes with a very high price tag and they had to work out where to put her. This is poor use of public resources in my mind and it's certainly no way to run staffing arrangements in the public service.
"Why is this position paid such a high salary. I mean, she's being paid a quarter of a million dollars a year more than her boss.
"We need an accountable public service that makes decisions that are in the best interest of the Australian public, not splashing money around to make problems go away."
Robodebt referrals looked at by NACC, APSC
Public servants adversely named in the report have already been referred to the Australian Public Service Commission for code of conduct inquiries, Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed last week.
The conduct of others would be referred to the new National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Australian Federal Police.
The minister would not name any officials but said some had already been placed on leave with pay or suspended without pay.
Advice from the public service commission says agency heads, such as Defence secretary Greg Moriarty, can take action before a formal investigation has started or concluded.
The Canberra Times is not suggesting Ms Campbell has been referred to one of those bodies.
The anti-corruption watchdog confirmed earlier this week robodebt referrals are among the 50-or-so "well publicised" matters it's looking into.
An unpublished section of the royal commission's report contains the identities of individuals who are recommended for referral for possible civil or criminal prosecution.
Government ministers, including Mr Shorten, have supported making the sealed chapter public in time.