Calls for a Parliamentary Inquiry into CSIRO

Posted on December 26, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Another gem from Noel Towell.

Inquiry call on CSIRO ‘bullying’

December 27, 2012

AN INQUIRY should be held into Commonwealth science agency CSIRO and the treatment of its 6600-strong workforce amid claims ”of criminal conduct and commercial fraud”, the federal opposition says.

Coalition science spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella has written to Science Minister Chris Evans saying the government needs to act on accusations emerging from CSIRO of a persistent and widespread workplace culture of bullying.

The organisation is already racing to meet a December 31 compliance deadline for an improvement notice issued in June by Commonwealth workplace authority Comcare over allegations of bullying and harassment at the CSIRO’s Black Mountain site in Canberra.

The Liberal frontbencher said she believed many workplace allegations against CSIRO managers were unresolved. She has asked Senator Evans in her letter to institute a full inquiry into workplace culture and practice at the organisation.

CSIRO has publicly acknowledged the Comcare notice and updated staff on the progress in dealing with bullying and harassment claims. But Mrs Mirabella said an inquiry was needed to probe claims that may not have been properly investigated.

”It is my view that such an inquiry should be established as a matter of urgency, with terms of reference and powers that would enable it to comprehensively review recent and historical instances of such conduct and the adequacy of the organisation’s responses to them,” she wrote to the minister.

”There may have been tens of claims of workplace bullying, intimidation and/or harassment, and other related forms of misconduct that have not been fully or adequately investigated, and where a strong possibility exists that, at the very least, due process has been breached.”

A spokesman for Senator Evans said on Wednesday that the minister had held talks with the CSIRO chairman and chief executive and that Mrs Mirabella’s letter had been passed to the organisation’s parent department, Science and Innovation, to examine its other claims.

One of 12 directives issued by Comcare instructs CSIRO to develop a ”risk management plan” before it tries to tackle any allegation of misconduct.

Performance management processes and misconduct investigations have proved to be common triggers for bullying claims at the organisation.

Chief executive Megan Clark has assured staff the CSIRO is ”on track” to comply with the improvement notice.

The CSIRO staff association, a division of public sector union CPSU, has called for a ”zero-tolerance” approach by senior management to problems with bullying and harassment.

But Mrs Mirabella said in her letter she was not satisfied with the response and highlighted the existence of a group of aggrieved former CSIRO public servants who were campaigning for change in the organisation.

Mrs Mirabella, who says she has been pursuing the issue for more than two years, told the minister she and her colleagues were unhappy with many of the answers from CSIRO executives in Senate hearings.

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