Archive for February, 2013

Independence of CSIRO bullying review farcical

Posted on February 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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

13/02/13

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.

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CSIRO Slammed for remark over bullying

Posted on February 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

 

This article in The Australian newspaper says it all really.  Before an investigation has even commenced into the allegations we are already seeing senior CSIRO executives making inappropriate judgements in relation to the validity of claims.  It is difficult to see how such an investigation can be truly independent when the CSIRO’s most senior management have already cast judgement.  Again we must reiterate that for such an investigation to be truly independent, it must be taken completely out of the control of the CSIRO…..

CSIRO slammed for remark over bullying

  • by: By Ehssan Veiszadeh
  • From: AAP
  • February 13, 2013 6:41PM

AUSTRALIA’S national science agency has come under fire for labelling some allegations of bullying by former staff as “dodgy” shortly after appointing an independent investigator to probe the claims.

CSIRO chief Megan Clarke announced on Wednesday that former commonwealth ombudsman Dennis Pearce would investigate bullying claims made by former employees.

Emeritus Professor Pearce will finalise the terms of reference for the inquiry in the coming days and ask for submissions, Dr Clarke told a senate estimates hearing.

The agency has yet to decide whether the investigation will look at claims from current employees.

An interim report will be made public in May.

CSIRO deputy chief Mike Whelan says 11 allegations of bullying and harassment have been made over the past three years at the agency, with one being substantiated.

Liberal senator David Bushby told the hearing he was aware of more than 100 cases of alleged bullying and harassment.

But Mr Whelan questioned the veracity of some of the claims.

“Lots of allegations have been tossed around by stakeholders and media in recent times and I’d have to say that the basis for some of those are pretty dodgy,” he said.

Opposition science spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella took issue with Mr Whelan’s comments.

“If Mr Whelan thinks that these allegations are ‘pretty dodgy’, this begs the question as to why CSIRO have commissioned an inquiry at all,” she said in a statement.

She also questioned whether the investigation will be independent.

“Even in establishing the framework for this inquiry it is obvious there’s an inappropriate ‘hands on’ approach by CSIRO,” Ms Mirabella said.

Prof Pearce works as a legal consultant, specialising in administrative law, and was a commonwealth ombudsman from 1988 to 1991.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/csiro-appoints-bullying-investigator/story-fn3dxiwe-1226576955431

 

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First to leave the Sinking Ship

Posted on February 12, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

It has not gone without notice to us here at Victims of CSIRO that Dr Mark Lonsdale has indicated that he will not seek another term in the role of Chief of Ecosystem Science at the CSIRO.

For those who are unaware, Dr Lonsdale was Chief of the Division of Ecosystem Sciences during the period in which the division was issued with an Improvement Notice over its bungled handling of bullying and misconduct allegations by the Federal Government Health & Safety regulator, ComCare.

Dr Lonsdale was also mentioned in Senate Estimates in May 2012, being the manager who had complaints about him, referred back to him by CSIRO CEO, Dr Megan Clark.

Dr Lonsdale subsequently presided over the termination of the employee who had raised allegations against him.

It is a shame that Dr Lonsdale has been allowed to decide his own future within the organisation where many others have not, particularly in light of the damage Dr Lonsdale and others have caused to the reputation of the CSIRO.

We’ll leave it up to the current legal action lodged against the CSIRO to determine whether this was appropriate or not!

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Fraud – A Minor Adminstrative Matter!

Posted on February 11, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Below are some links to email exchanges between Dr Sylwester Chyb and a number of senior CSIRO executives in relation the forgery of Dr Chyb’s signature.

Of particular interest is an email in which CSIRO Group Executive, Dr Joanne Daly suggests that forgery is a “minor administrative matter”.  Dr Daly goes on to enlighten the reader by suggesting that use of an individual’s signature without permission is not forgery, nor is it a criminal matter and should not be referred to as such!!!!

One might suggest that the Criminal Codes in every jurisdiction within Australia suggest otherwise!

Re_ forged CSIRO document

RE_ findings of investigation

Notes from Dr Chyb discussion of 26 May 10

findings of investigation

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Independent Investigation must be truly Independent, Transparent and Open

Posted on February 10, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

CSIRO Acknowledges the Need for an Inquiry into the Organisation, but it must be truly Independent, Transparent, and Open

 

CSIRO has indicated that it intends to institute an “independent inquiry” into allegations of workplace bullying and harassment at the organisation.  This is said by CSIRO to be necessary to “ensure our duty of care has been met”. However, ComCare has already formally identified significant problems with the way CSIRO  has mis-managed pycho-social workplace safety and issued the organisation a formal improvement notice. An independent inquiry that is deeper-looking is, indeed, urgently needed into CSIRO.

The support and advocacy group, Victims of CSIRO welcomes the organisation’s official acknowledgement of the need for a formal inquiry.  It stands in stark contrast to the repeated denials by the CSIRO management over the last few years that a serious problem exists. However, such an inquiry must be truly independent, transparent and open in its scope in order to get to the bottom of the allegations against CSIRO from myriad sources – former and well as current employees, and other external sources.

Victims of CSIRO believe that the correct format for such an inquiry is a Parliamentary Inquiry, in which CSIRO is a participant or party, and not the controlling agency.  At the very least, the inquiry should be managed by, and initially funded by, a different organisation, at arm’s length from CSIRO. In our view, an internal inquiry, presided over by the same managers who stand accused of mis-managing, covering-up or in some cases, participating in breaches of acceptable conduct, is fundamentally flawed where independence is concerned.

CSIRO should not singularly determine and decide the investigator (nor pay for the services), nor should it set the terms of reference, and therefore receive the report to decide how the determinations should be publicised.

The experience of former employees is that CSIRO has demonstrated its willingness to manipulate and thwart internal and supposedly “independent inquiries” in its favour.  CSIRO should have no opportunity to “distil” or “re-interpret” allegations into diminished form before they are considered by the inquiry.  Nor should CSIRO be able to view, edit, or amend the inquiry outcomes and report before their public release. Such an inquiry must also be transparent in its hearings, submissions, and final report.  These should be open to the public, as they are in any Parliamentary Inquiries.  The only possible reason for avoiding such transparency would be, in our view, a desire to conceal significant matters of public interest.

Again, the experience of a number of former employees is that CSIRO’s actions over the last few years have been at times specifically directed at concealing matters of public interest.  A closed inquiry managed by CSIRO is not patently acceptable to employees – or CSIRO’s broader stakeholders.

Finally, the scope of such an inquiry should be open to include all allegations of bullying, harassment, and associated allegations of illegal activity, including those against the most senior managers of the organisation. In our view, it is the conduct of senior levels of the organisation that requires the closest scrutiny, and thus, we reiterate, they should therefore not set the terms or running of the inquiry. The inquiry must record mismanagement and misconduct by those ultimately responsible for protecting employees against bullying, harassment and victimisation, and for managing legitimate whistleblower submissions. Where CSIRO’s Code of Conduct has been breached – including where the organisation has been brought into disrepute, there must be corresponding and appropriate action to restore public and organisational trust.

It appears at this stage, however, that the CSIRO inquiry will be limited to a reconsideration of previous cases and the question as to whether workplace bullying occurred or not.  Such limitations will emasculate the inquiry and render it inadequate.  They potentially constitute a fatal flaw in themselves.

CSIRO is a public organisation, funded predominantly by taxpayer money. The inquiry ought also to have the power to estimate the expenditure of CSIRO’s budget that has occurred to ‘manage’ the involved cases. The public is owed this information, as part of their trust in the organisation’s leadership.

Similarly, if, in the public trust, CSIRO is serious about “ensuring” that its “duty of care has been met”, then it cannot possibly have objections to the obvious requirement for independence, transparency, and openness.  No authentic legal process in Australia operates without them.  Why, then, should they be absent in this inquiry?

The CSIRO announcements can be found at:

http://www.csiro.au/Portals/About-CSIRO/How-we-work/Reinforcing-CSIRO-values/CSIRO-resolves-to-strengthen-values-and-culture.aspx

and

http://www.csiro.au/Portals/About-CSIRO/How-we-work/Reinforcing-CSIRO-values.aspx

 

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Nature Article – CSIRO Launches Bullying Investigation

Posted on February 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Australian science agency to launch independent bullying investigation

08 Feb 2013 | 11:45 GMT | Posted by Davide Castelvecchi | Category: ,

Posted on behalf of Stephen Pincock.

Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO), has announced that it plans to appoint an external investigator to review accusations of bullying made by former employees.

In a statement posted on the agency’s website this week, chief executive Megan Clarke said that “an eminent and experienced independent person” would be set on the task of reviewing the claims and assessing whether previous investigations were adequate.

As Nature reported recently, various accusations of bullying have emerged from the CSIRO in recent years. Most recently, a federal watchdog instructed the agency to improve its systems for managing allegations of misconduct after looking into complaints made by one former employee.

The agency says that the new review mechanism is designed to provide a formal way for former employees to raise concerns and allegations of inappropriate behaviour or misconduct while they were working at the CSIRO. It wouldn’t be a scheme under which former employees could seek financial compensation.

A CSIRO spokesman said that the terms of reference and the name of the investigator would be announced in coming weeks.

News of the latest review has been cautiously welcomed by a group of former CSIRO employees who call themselves Victims of Bullying, Harassment and Victimisation in the CSIRO.

“We’re all waiting for the terms of reference and for the name of the investigator to be announced,” said Andrew Hooley, the group’s spokesman. He told Nature that he hoped the investigation would be conducted as transparently as possible, and that the CSIRO would act on the findings.

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SMH Article: CSIRO Probe into bullying

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald:

THE CSIRO has announced an ”independent” inquiry into a string of serious allegations of misconduct and workplace bullying by as many as 100 former scientists, two months after it was issued with a formal notice by the Commonwealth work safety regulator.

The nation’s peak scientific body quietly posted the announcement on its website on Tuesday night, saying that ”an eminent and experienced independent person [would] examine claims made by former employees”.

Midway through last year a group of scientists and former CSIRO staff formed a group – ”victims of CSIRO” – to exert pressure on the organisation to address what the group claim is a culture of bullying and cover-up.

This group has names on it such as Maarten Stapper, a soil scientist allegedly pushed out because of his criticism of genetically modified crops, globally recognised oceanographer Trevor McDougall and award-winning entomologist Sylwester Chyb, who has begun litigation against the CSIRO for misleading conduct and unlawful termination.

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In September, Fairfax media revealed that two of three CSIRO employees who blew the whistle in 2008 and 2010 on alleged ”criminal or civil breaches of the law” were made redundant while the alleged perpetrators remained employed.

Then in December, Comcare issued the organisation an ”improvement notice” under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

It requested a ”review and improvement” of CSIRO’s management of workplace misconduct and allegations of bullying.

Late last year, the opposition science spokeswoman, Sophie Mirabella, wrote to the government requesting it establish an inquiry. Ms Mirabella said she is aware of as many as 100 cases of alleged workplace harassment.

She said on Tuesday night there has been a ”stream of bullying allegations from some very qualified senior former CSIRO scientists” and promised that if the Coalition won the election, she would change the way the sprawling organisation handled such matters.

The CSIRO statement said the inquiry aimed to ensure its duty of care was being met to its staff.

”This review mechanism is designed to provide an independent and formal means for former employees to raise concerns and allegations of inappropriate behaviour and misconduct whilst they were employed at CSIRO,” it said. But it also said the inquiry was not a mechanism by which former employees could seek compensation.

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ABC Article on CSIRO Bullying Investigation

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article was published on the ABC News website a short time ago:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-06/inquiry-into-csiro-bullying/4503852?&section=news

Inquiry into CSIRO ‘bullying’

Posted 2 hours 31 minutes ago

Australia’s peak scientific organisation, the CSIRO, has announced an inquiry into workplace bullying.

The research organisation released a statement on Tuesday saying an independent review would be launched into allegations of harassment including those made by a group of scientists who call themselves the ‘victims of CSIRO’.

Maarten Stapper is an agronomist who left the CSIRO in 2007, and says he was bullied for publicly criticising genetically modified crops.

He says it is about time the organisation took action on this issue.

“I hope for a real recognition that this has happened. That it’s not just angry people who are upset because they were not accepted scientifically,” he said.

“But it’s the actual people management, bullying, that the top’s always right and the top puts all the pressure on the lower staff.”

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Shadow Minister’s Response to CSIRO Investigation

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science has issued a response in relation to CSIRO’s announcement of an independent investigation into the bulling allegations of former employees.  The shadow minister’s response outlines a number of areas of concern that are echoed by the Victims of CSIRO group but which will hopefully be resolved in the terms of reference for the investigation.  The press release is provided below:

SOPHIE MIRABELLA MP
Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science
Federal Member for Indi

MEDIA RELEASE

CSIRO BULLY INQUIRY: DEVIL IN THE DETAIL

Wednesday, 6th February 2013

Shadow Science Minister Sophie Mirabella has today cautiously welcomed the CSIRO’s announcement that it will
now launch a detailed, independent inquiry into the workplace bullying crisis at the organisation.

CSIRO Chief, Megan Clark issued a statement late Tuesday announcing the appointment of an independent person to
review claims of bullying within the organisation.

Mrs Mirabella said that while she welcomes the announcement of an inquiry, the Coalition will be reserving final
judgement until after she receives a full briefing on Thursday.

Mrs Mirabella also flagged concerns about a potential conflict of interest, noting that the CEO will be both hand
picking the “independent” reviewer and co-authoring the terms of reference.

“This is a welcome development for those scientists who feel their grievances and allegations have not been taken
seriously,” Mrs Mirabella said.

“But it is absolutely crucial that the scientists can have full confidence that the review will be conducted at arm’s
length from CSIRO. The announcement is thin on detail and heavy on motherhood statements. I hope at the very
least that the yet to be released terms of reference are developed independently of the CSIRO. At this point, I am
not satisfied that is the case.

“It is also essential that all those scientists who come forward to give evidence on cases of bullying can do so in-
camera and that all steps are taken to ensure their identity and evidence is protected.

“The Coalition has been consistently raising this matter with the Government since early 2011, so the announcement
of this inquiry should be seen as vindication for all those people who have spoken up; not just about workplace
bullying, but also the lack of proper process within the organisation and inadequate resources to deal with issues of
this nature,” Mrs Mirabella concluded.

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Canberra Times – CSIRO to hold bullying inquiry

Posted on February 5, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article was posted on the Canberra Times website this morning in relation to CSIRO’s announcement of an independent investigation into workplace bullying. The full article can be found at the following location:

Victims of CSIRO will be providing a formal response to this announcement in the near future.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/csiro-to-hold-bullying-inquiry-20130205-2dwx3.html

CSIRO to hold bullying inquiry

February 6, 2013
Noel Towell

Chief Executive Megan Clarke told the agency’s 6000 staff on Tuesday that an ”eminent and independent” person would inquire into claims by former staff of mistreatment at various CSIRO workplaces.

The organisation has been dogged for several years by widespread claims, mostly by scientists, of bullying and harassment.

The complaints culminated this year in an ”improvement notice” being issued by Commonwealth workplace insurer Comcare for the CSIRO installation at Canberra’s Black Mountain.

In her message to staff, Dr Clark acknowledged that aggrieved former CSIRO workers had formed organised groups and recognised that they had been able to generate considerable publicity for their cause.

”I have, together with the board, decided to appoint an eminent and experienced independent person to review claims by former employees, ensure our duty of care has been met to these staff, assess whether previous investigations were adequate and recommend where further action is required and what lessons we can learn to build into our future strategies,” Dr Clark announced.

”I share a deep concern with the community about any report that staff in CSIRO may have been bullied, harassed or mistreated and I have paused to reflect on how a trusted scientific organisation, held in high esteem globally, could be standing accused by some of its former staff of not being able to deal effectively with their issues.”

Dr Clarke also said the review would investigate some of the more central and common of the claims against the CSIRO, that workers had been threatened, silenced or intimidated by management.

”The key issues being raised by former staff include not having contributions to projects and publications adequately recognised, unfair dismissal, intimidation through performance management, unresolved disagreement on ownership of intellectual property, denying scientists ‘free speech’,” she wrote.

Dr Clark told staff that the terms of reference of the review were still to be finalised but that it would not provide a mechanism for financial compensation.

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