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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 February 2010) . . Page.. 633 ..

requires tact and discretion. It needs to recognise that bullying takes place in an environment of power relationships between the victim and the perpetrator, or perpetrators.

It is, sadly, easy to dismiss bullying as harmless fun or tough management. It is even sadder that many organisations and people do not recognise that the harms caused are very real and impact upon the workplace and home lives of all those affected. Occupational health and safety legislation, by its current nature, is not very suited in its application to cases of bullying in the workplace. The procedures in legislation often concentrate more on hazards that can be fixed through changes in operating procedures and physical environments. However, unlike an exposed wire or a set of slippery stairs, the hazard in a case of bullying is a person, with all the rights that are then conferred.

As such, unlike traditional safety concerns, bullying cases cannot be solved with a health and safety representative issuing an improvement notice and notifying management. There is a need for natural justice, a transparent system and a right of response. The nature of the claim means that bullying and harassment cases more resemble workplace disputes than traditional safety claims.

Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that bullying takes place in a broader environment than the people directly involved. Workplace culture plays an important role. Since the allegations of bullying, harassment and malpractice at the maternity ward have come to our attention, my office and I have received a number of briefings from the department and the minister’s office and spoken to Dr Foote and other medical representatives, including the AMA.

In developing a response to this situation and Mr Hanson’s motion, I have approached the issue from both a health perspective and an industrial relations perspective, which brings us to the crux of our objection to the motion before the Assembly today and the reasons why the Greens will be supporting the health minister’s amendment. The Greens appreciate what Mr Hanson is attempting to achieve through his proposed board of inquiry. We acknowledge that it will be more difficult to obtain evidence without a board of inquiry’s power to compel.

However, the ACT Greens feel that it is highly inappropriate to drag victims, potential victims or accused bullies under the power of subpoena. Whilst it is a regrettable fact that bullying frequently goes unreported, we should not exacerbate what people are going through by forcing them to talk about their situation against their will. Pulling people out of the maternity unit and compelling them to testify on the record will do more substantial harm to the workplace environment of that unit than any that currently exists.

You need to create an environment where people feel comfortable in coming forward. Making people come forward and forcing them to do so will not encourage people to disclose. As to conducting a public forum, people will just not come forward in that case. Mr Hanson has referred to using the Inquiries Act 1991 and said that his proposal will offer legal protection. People can get legal protection currently, as has already been discussed, with the public interest disclosure, not just under the Inquiries

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