On Saturday morning, Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe walked into his office in the city and packed up his extensive fossil collection. It was an odd activity for a senior public servant going on a holiday. At least “going on leave” was the story being peddled by Fair Trading Minister Matthew Mason-Cox. But sources say the minister had told Mr Stowe the previous afternoon that he no longer had confidence in him and had asked him to leave. Five days of speculation about the status of Mr Stowe’s employment ended on Thursday, when the commissioner returned to work. With that development came calls for Mr Mason-Cox to resign amid accusations he had laid the blame for his own incompetence on a senior bureaucrat. Since Monday, Mr Mason-Cox had fiercely dismissed reports he had sacked Mr Stowe, insisting the commissioner was “on leave”. But in an about-face, he announced on Thursday: “I am pleased to confirm Stowe has today returned from leave. I had a few questions regarding communications between NSW Fair Trading and my office and wanted to ensure that this was running smoothly.” The strange turn of events is linked to the death of central coast woman Sheryl Anne Aldeguer, who was electrocuted while using a faulty USB charger in April. On June 27, Mr Stowe released a statement about her death and warned about the dangers of the dodgy chargers. But Mr Mason-Cox was absent from Mr Stowe’s media blitz. Fairfax Media reported on Monday that Premier Mike Baird had given Mr Mason-Cox a “tongue-lashing” for skipping the opportunity to front the public campaign. On Monday, Mr Baird declined to confirm he had criticised Mr Mason-Cox, instead saying he “had full confidence in the minister”. On Thursday, he declined to answer whether his confidence in Mr Mason-Cox remained. Earlier this week, reports appeared in the media that Mr Stowe had not told the minister about the link between the death and the dangerous products for nine days. It can now be revealed that this was part of a misinformation campaign by a senior bureaucrat, whom Fairfax Media cannot name for legal reasons. The bureaucrat has been accused by senior departmental sources of providing the media with information that could undermine Mr Stowe in an attempt to nab his position. Mr Stowe had informed the minister about the link the day he was briefed in mid-June. But when he told the minister’s office he was going public with the warnings, one of Mr Mason-Cox’s media advisers, who had been installed by the bureaucrat, said the minister did not need to be involved. Opposition spokeswoman for fair trading Tania Mihailuk called for the minister’s resignation, saying the internal chaos had come at a bad time. “Fair Trading is meant to be fully investigating dangerous USB chargers being sold – a product that has already tragically claimed the life of a young mother,” she said. “The only thing made clear from this minister’s blundering is that he is out of his depth – and has plunged Fair Trading into a state of disarray.” Greens MP John Kaye also called for the minister’s resignation. “Premier Mike Baird should put consumer safety and rights ahead of the expediency of maintaining a stable front bench,” he said. He attempted to shift the blame for his own incompetence on to a well respected and highly effective bureaucrat.” Dr Kaye believes the sudden removal of Fair Trading’s frontline staff potentially jeopardised public safety. “People’s lives were at risk from faulty chargers. He must take responsibility for failing to recognise that he was ill-advised by the temporary staff placed in his office [by the bureaucrat].” Consumer advocate Christopher Zinn said news of Mr Stowe’s reinstatement was a “relief”. Do you know more? [email protected]南京夜网.au
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