Independence of CSIRO bullying review farcical
We cannot say that we are surprised by the behaviour of senior CSIRO executives in Senate Estimates. The dismissal of legitimate complaints and attempts to discredit those attempting to bring these issues to light is effectively what has led to the escalation of such complaints to the point where the only effective way to get these matters addressed is to go public!
Estimates: Independence of CSIRO bullying review farcical
A Senate Estimates session this morning exposed CSIRO’s potential conflict of interest in commissioning and primarily drafting terms of reference for a review into its own practices and procedures. This has cast serious doubt over the independence of the so-called ‘independent’ review.
“I have great concerns that the announced inquiry into workplace bullying and harassment won’t be the independent and comprehensive inquiry that Minister Evans promised,” said Sophie Mirabella, Shadow Minister for Science, today.
“Even in establishing the framework for this inquiry it is obvious there’s an inappropriate ‘hands on’ approach by CSIRO.”
In a number of extraordinary revelations, CSIRO Deputy Chief Executive Mike Whelan stated this morning that conflicts of interest were not taken into consideration when framing the terms of reference.
“This is a serious problem when you consider that some of the complaints in question go to the very people framing the terms of reference,” Mrs Mirabella said.
Mr Whelan also referred to some bullying allegations as “pretty dodgy”.
“If Mr Whelan thinks that these allegations are ‘pretty dodgy’, this begs the question as to why CSIRO have commissioned an inquiry at all, why is it not being conducted at arm’s length and why the outcome may have even been pre-judged.
Other issues of concern regarding the CSIRO inquiry include:
– Admissions that the CSIRO legal team are already heavily involved in the setup of the inquiry;
– An admission by Mr Whelan that the independent reviewer (the Chair of the Inquiry) ‘added value’. Rather than ‘adding value, he should be in charge; and
– A failure to launch misconduct cases into two senior CSIRO staff, despite findings by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) that they were unreliable witnesses in a recent AAT case.
“Sadly, what we have seen in Senate Estimates this morning is typical of the responses we have had from CSIRO since 2011 about these types of complaints. The Minister must intervene to ensure that there is the promised independent review into these serious allegations against CSIRO,” Mrs Mirabella concluded.