Page 3925 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 29 October 2013

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In this year’s state of the service report we see the situation has not improved but, in fact, has got worse. The 2013 report shows that the number of alleged breaches of the Public Sector Management Act has increased. For example, in the “not harass a member of the public or another public employee, whether sexually or otherwise” category, the breaches have jumped from 16 in 2011-12 to 35 in 2012-13.

When we turn to the completed investigations, we see some significant increases. For example, last year 12 people were terminated. This year it is 16. Thirty-five received a first or final warning. Last year it was 25. So the numbers go on and up. The “transfer to other duties” category has jumped from one to nine. I would like to believe that this is not simply pushing the problem to somewhere else because it might be too difficult to prosecute a case for dismissal or penalty.

I know that an issue for victims at CIT was, because of the long delay between the events occurring and the cases being examined, the bully had moved on to other areas or left the public service and moved to private sector employment. I do not know why the transfer option appears to have increased 900 per cent in one year, but I hope it was not to avoid hard decisions by their managers. I would hope that it has not left the complainants feeling their complaints went unheard and that, as victims, they were not believed. Because that is so often the human tragedy behind these statistics—what it does to the recipients of the harassment and bullying.

In the last Assembly the shadow minister for health outlined case after case of bullying and harassment among medical professionals at Canberra Hospital. Today he will tell you that nothing has changed and the bullying continues. If you are to read the Chief Minister’s well-argued and detailed submission to the House of Representatives inquiry you would think that the ACT public service was an exemplary employer. As her submission says:

As one of the Territory’s largest employers the ACT Public Service is leading by example fostering a positive workplace culture by exposing unacceptable behaviour and taking fresh steps to drive cultural change where needed. We recognise that a safe workplace is fundamental to our business, our workers and our roles as a leader among employers. Measures to address bullying at work must form part of an integrated strategy that identifies and controls the same behaviour in our families and communities.

Elsewhere the submission talks of zero tolerance coupled with vigilant monitoring of behaviour, that complaints must be handled quickly and transparently. It says that, where grievance policies do not exist, are not clearly understood or issues do not seem to be taken seriously, workers will not trust the process and not report incidents. This all sounds really good, and I do want to believe it, but the best that can be said of the lofty aspirations of this document are that it is a work in progress.

If we go to the issue of non-reporting, in the CIT case that was clearly what was happening. Several lone soldiers had submitted their claims of harassment, of unfair treatment at the hands of their managers and supervisors, and for their trouble had been hounded out of work or ignored. I would like to think that what happened at CIT was unique, a one-off abnormality that would not or could not be replicated anywhere

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