Archive for November, 2012
Despite terminating every whistleblower who complained of criminal and civil breaches of the law, Deputy CEO Craig Roy testifies that CSIRO has “a very constructive whistleblower policy”.
Despite retaining every employee accused of criminal and civil breaches of the law, Andrew Johnson testifies that CSIRO could not afford to keep Dr Trevor McDougall, internationally renowned oceanographer
During the 15 February 2012 Senate Estimates, CSIRO Deputy CEO Mr Craig Roy, told Senator Bushby that CSIRO has a “very constructive” whistleblower policy. His exact words were:
“We do protect the individual who has made the complaint. We have strong processes and procedures, including a very constructive whistleblower policy that supports what we do”.
However, in the most recent answers to the Senate Estimates questions on notice, CSIRO acknowledged that, without exception, every whistleblower who had complained of criminal and civil breaches of the law in the last 5 years and identified themselves in doing so, had been terminated.
Moreover, without exception, every employee who had been accused of criminal or civil breaches of the law over the same time, was still employed by CSIRO.
Mr Roy has, in our view, a profoundly eccentric understanding of the word: “constructive”.How, precisely, is it “constructive” to expel every single employee who has, in good faith, reported alleged criminal and civil breaches of the law (often, apparently, without CSIRO investigating or reporting the alleged breaches of the law)? Moreover, how is it “constructive” to retain every single employee accused of such breaches (often, apparently, without CSIRO investigating whether they are guilty of them or not)?
We further note the comments in the same Senate Estimates, of Dr Andrew Johnson explaining why CSIRO had terminated the employment of internationally renowned oceanographer, Dr Trevor McDougall, despite receiving written representations from more than 100 international scientists.
Dr Johnson told Senator Christine Milne:
“We made a decision, based on a range of analysis and consultations, that the particular component of oceanographic work that the individual that you referred to previously worked on, was not consistent with the direction we want to take the work.”
So … to put this bluntly:
CSIRO terminated a world famous scientist over the written objections of more than 100 of his international peers, but it has retained the services of every single employee who has been accused of criminal and civil breaches of the law over the last 5 years, even in the apparently common cases where the allegations have not been investigated.
And the reason that they have done this is, apparently, because it was, in Dr Johnson’s words:
“…[not] consistent with the direction we want to take …”
Moreover, according to Mr Roy, CSIRO has a whistleblower policy that:
“…supports what we do” (the term “we” presumably refers to the executive management of CSIRO)
In our view, these two statements encapsulate the problem.
The whistleblowers and Dr McDougal appear to have made the fatal mistake of going in a different direction to that which the CSIRO executive “want to take”. By contrast, the employees who were accused of breaches of the law and have been retained, often, apparently, without investigation of their actions, appear to have been going in the same direction that the CSIRO executive “want to take”.
It seems to us that the CSIRO executive may believe that no one has the right to challenge the direction that they “want to take”. Not internationally famous scientists from all around the world. Not employees concerned about serious criminal and civil breaches of the law. Not even, it appears, the law itself. Certainly, not the law-enforcement authorities, to which CSIRO has, on more than one occasion, apparently failed to report the allegations of criminal and civil breaches of the law.
When seen in this light, one can perfectly understand why Mr Roy considers CSIRO’s whistleblower policy to be “constructive“. It is “constructive” in the sense that its “supports”the CSIRO executive in whatever direction that they “want to take” – apparently regardless of inconveniences like the criminal and civil law.
We would argue however, that it takes a wildly overblown and arrogant conceit, combined with a thoroughly cynical disdain for society at large, to understand the term “constructive” in this way.
Unfortunately, it seems to us that even the Senators who deign to ask questions about the direction that the CSIRO executive “want to take” are not considered worthy of straight answers that do not contain obscure interpretations.
(CSIRO’s formal answers to the Senate in respect of whistleblowers can be found in question BI-145 in http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=economics_ctte/estimates/bud_1213/DIISRTE/index.htm).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Letter to CSIRO Board of Directors Shows that CSIRO Deceived the Senate about the Complaint of at least One Whistleblower.
CSIRO Terminated Every Employee that Complained of Criminal or Civil Breaches of the Law and Retained Every Employee Complained About
In the Senate Estimates hearings of 28 May 2012, CSIRO CEO Megan Clark defended the national science agency against claims of a “culture” of workplace bullying. She said that CSIRO “did not have a problem” with workplace bullying.
However, it now appears that the problem of workplace bullying may have been only one part of a larger culture within CSIRO of generally ignoring the law.
In written answers to Senate Estimates questions on notice BI-144 and BI-145 (31 July 2012), CSIRO formally informed the Senate that, since 2007:
· CSIRO retrenched every single employee who formally complained of criminal or civil breaches of the law.
· By contrast, CSIRO has retained every single employee whose actions were alleged to be illegal– they are still working at CSIRO to this day.
One of the employees who lodged a whistleblower complaint of criminal / civil breaches of the law has now released a letter that was sent to the CSIRO board of directors.
The employee is referred to in CSIRO’s answer to question BI-144 as “Employee B”. The letter was sent to the CSIRO directors on 14 August 2008.
CSIRO says in its answer to BI-144 that this letter:
“Refer[red] to [an] earlier complaint lodged under the CSIRO Whistleblower Scheme in June 2007 and concern as to the progress of the investigation.”
However, that is not correct.
The letter alleged commercial and criminal breaches of the law on the part of certain CSIRO middle managers and an outright refusal by CSIRO senior management to investigate the allegations or report them to appropriate law-enforcement authorities.
The letter comprised a legal assessment of the evidence presented in the whistleblower case. The assessment was carried out by a reputable Melbourne law firm and included the following statements:
Summary of the Complaint
“The complainant makes wide-ranging allegations, which include:
1) Numerous breaches of applicable laws and legal obligations on the part of certain members of the management team at the CSIRO Division of [redacted] in their dealings regarding the spin-off company [redacted]. The allegations include breaches of the Corporations Act 2001, the Trade Practices Act 1974, the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997, and the Occupational Health and Safety Acts, including the Commonwealth (1991) and the Victorian Acts (2004). Breaches of legal agreements are also alleged with the commercial partner, [redacted], a stock-exchange listed company.” …
The Scope of the Whistleblower Investigation …
“At the end of February 2008, Dr [whistleblower investigator] provided Dr [whistleblower] with a document that “distilled”and summarised his allegations. In accordance with the “distilled” allegations, the following matters were excluded from the investigation:
1. All alleged criminal and civil breaches of the Corporations Act …
2. All allegations regarding the “commercial”merits of decisions made by certain management figures …” [which included all complaints of criminal and commercial illegalities]
Review of the Complaint and the Response
“The evidence presented by [the complainant] in his complaint is detailed and extensive. A court would need to test the evidence and hear evidence from all relevant parties, however I am satisfied that prima facie, there is a case for the allegations, which would, in my opinion, be made out in the absence of contradictory evidence”.
“I am satisfied that there are grounds for his allegations of breaches of applicable laws and contractual obligations. I accept his contention that there may have been criminal breaches of the Corporations Act 2001 and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. There also appear to have been prima facie breaches of the aformentioned Acts, as well as the Trade Practices Act 1974. Serious questions are raised regarding commercial practices at [redacted].” …
“It does seem to me that the allegations as to commercial decisions and the implications of those decisions ought to be investigated. Failure to investigate these allegations will … exclude from the Whistleblower process, potentially serious breaches of … various pieces of commercial legislation.” …
“It does not seem to me that allegations of criminal conduct should be excluded from the investigation, especially since the CSIRO Whistleblower policy is specifically intended to address ‘criminal activity’ and thereby improve corporate governance (both ‘in perception and reality’). …
“The failure to conduct such an investigation [of the excluded sections] appears to be contrary to the Whistleblower scheme and raises questions about the intentions of [the] persons [involved]”.
Despite being provided with this legal assessment, the board of directors of CSIRO refused to take action and declined to institute a proper investigation of the alleged criminal and civil breaches of the law that had been raised, or to report them to a relevant law-enforcement authority.
Instead, the above whistleblower was retrenched within months of sending the CSIRO board of directors that letter.
The reason given by CSIRO for the retrenchment in their answer to BI-144 is that:
“CSIRO no longer required the job to be performed because of changes in operational requirements”.
However, CSIRO, in fact, simultaneously hired the employee’s temporary replacement to continue his role at CSIRO.
To this day, the employee’s allegations of criminal and commercial breaches of the law have never been properly investigated by CSIRO or referred by CSIRO to relevant law-enforcement authorities. Commonwealth agencies and authorities like CSIRO, are formally obliged to report suspected criminal conduct to the relevant authorities. CSIRO has not done so in this case.
In November 2010, the Minister of Finance and Deregulation, Penny Wong, ordered an investigation of the allegations of breaches of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act. That investigation is ongoing.
A copy of the above legal assessment, which was sent to the CSIRO board of directors on 14 August 2008, can be found here.
We ask you to decide if this letter merely expresses “concern as to the progress of the investigation”as stated by CSIRO in its answers to the Senate?
The letter from Minister Penny Wong instructing an investigation of these matters can be found here.
CSIRO’s answers to the Senate Estimates questions BI-144 and BI-145 can be found at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=economics_ctte/estimates/bud_1213/DIISRTE/index.htm).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
b) The CSIRO did not take all reasonable steps to protect the worker from that risk.
The summary of the Comcare Report (EVE207221-0002) is available online at
Attached is a letter from Comcare in relation to the complaints of 13 former CSIRO employees who experienced bullying and victimisation in their employment.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Comcare’s CEO recently interviewed Dr Richard Pimental, a world leader on workplace harm anddisability and co-initiator of the ‘Americans with Disability Act’ to get his reactions as to whatneeds to be done at federal workplaces to tackle the problem of workplace bullying.
To view the clip with (CC captioning) click on the link:
http://www.comcare.gov.au/news and media/in conversation with richard pimentel -short clip/ nocache
A transcript of the video interview is detailed below:
Paul O’Connor (POC): Dr Richard Pimentel, welcome to Australia and thanks for talking toComcare about 2015.
POC: Richard, you’ve talked about workplace bullying with us during your time at Comcare, visiting with our people and visiting with members of the Comcare community. How bad is this problem and what can we do to tackle the big problem of workplace bullying?
RP: It’s becoming more and more a serious problem. It’s the, it’s the new civil rights, youknow, protection. Bullies destroy the best employees you have in the workplace. Bullies targetpeople who don’t have the skills – who have skills that they don’t have. So they’re going totarget the competent ones, and they’re going to make you think they’re incompetent so they candestroy them. What we need to do, well you could say well let’s make a law against it, let’s put them in jail, let’s fine the employer, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Well that only works after the damage has been done.
What every company needs to do is have a meeting with every single one of their employees and explain what workplace bullying really is. How the bully does it. How the bully recruits other people to help them do it. What lies the bully tells to their own supervisors to make it justifiable to hurt this person. How the bully makes the person that they’re bullying believe it’s not happening, or even worse, that it’s their fault. Bullies in the workplace are cockroaches, and the way you get rid of a cockroach is to turn on the light. If we shine a light on what these bullies do and then we empower everyone in the workplace. Ifyou’re being bullied, it’s not your imagination, it’s really happening. If a bully asks you to help them bully someone – and they do – don’t do it. If you’re observing someone bully but you don’t want to say anything because you’re afraid you’ll be the next one – say something. Tell the person being bullied that it’s really happening to them, it’s not their imagination. And if we all take responsibility – not just to not bully – but if we take responsibility to have a bully-free environment and top management supports your actions in this, you can stop bullyingovernight. You really can. If the people feel – if they’re knowledgeable enough to recognise itwhen they see it, and they feel empowered enough to do something about it when they know about it.
POC: So we need to create an environment where it’s safe for people to speak up and stop the bully?
RP: Absolutely. Because most people who don’t say anything are afraid that they won’t bebelieved, and that the bully will find out, and that they will be the next person being bullied, and it becomes a terrible cycle. But you can stop it now by just being open, explaining the psychological dynamics and the management dynamics of bullying. Here’s something you didn’tknow about bullies – bullies in the workplace are exactly like bullies in school. They’re cowards.All bullies are cowards. And if you take all their armament away from them, they don’t haveenough nerve to do it alone. Take – take everyone away from them, and the average bully will not have enough nerve to do anything at all to anyone.
POC: What can senior leaders be doing to – often they’re blind – so how can they create the right environment and what could they be doing by their own actions to stamp this out?
RP: Strong statement that it will not be tolerated. Training people so they really know what it looks like. Bullying is not throwing a pastry at someone when they come in late to a meeting.Bullying is telling them the meeting is at 9 o’clock when it’s really at 8 o’clock and thenchastising them for being an hour late. Bullying can be very subtle. And so what senior management needs to do – bullies tend to go to senior and middle management to say ‘Well, this person’s very weak, you know, we’ve got to get them out of here, and you know…’ And what the management has to do is say, ‘Is this really true? Or am I being set up to be someonehelping a bully?’ And so you have to say, what is really, what is really happening here.
And what senior management has to do is if someone comes in and says ‘I’m being bullied’,please take it seriously. If a co-worker comes in and says, ‘This person is bullying this person’,take it seriously. Find out the facts. If you think you’re being bullied, keep a diary. Everythingthat happens, everything that’s said. Keep a diary so you have something to say. Some of this bullying can be very very subtle, and very hard to prove. The worst bullies are the ones who do it so cleverly that they almost leave no trail at all. That’s why to make it a crime doesn’t work.Because the only people who get caught there are doing – they’re doing blatant things physicallyand loudly and that. The danger is bullies are right under the radar.
POC: So we have to, as senior leaders, encourage people to speak up and to have theconversation and confront what’s really happening at the workplace?
RP: Absolutely. And train them so that they – just like you train someone to recognise a safety hazard – you train someone to recognise bullying when it’s happening.
POC: Dr Richard Pimentel, thanks for coming to Australia, thanks for sharing your experience, and thanks for your service to communities around the world to make a real difference.
RP: Thank you. Thank you for having me.