Letter from Emeritus Professor Pearce
Provide below is a response from Victims of CSIRO in response to a letter by Professor Pearce published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 19th of April 2013.
Emeritus Professor Pearce is entitled to his opinion but then, so are we. While we have no problem personally with Professor Pearce and believe his intentions in relation to the investigation to be sincere, we still strongly hold to the position that it remains impossible to undertake a full and frank investigation of the allegations under the current terms of reference without significant interference by the CSIRO.
Recent media coverage of serious misconduct allegations including serious criminal allegations implicating senior CSIRO officials and the organisation’s failure to address such allegations render the CSIRO incapable of presiding over any misconduct investigation with any degree of credibility. Failure to mitigate such perceptions will only serve to further damage the international reputation and credibility of the the Australian Government and National Science Agencies.
We firmly believe that, in the interests of transparency and accountability, the investigation of serious allegations implicating senior bureaucrats should be commissioned by the Australian Parliament and not the Federal agency from which the allegations originate.
Despite representatives of the Victims of CSIRO group travelling to Sydney to meet with Professor Pearce in person, the response to questions raised by our members did little to ameliorate the concerns and were insufficient to enable us to change our position in support of this investigation. Serious questions surrounding a number of undeclared conflicts of interest in relation to parties involved in this investigation still remain unanswered.
Over the weekend, Victims of CSIRO will publish a full account of the meeting with the investigator.
History suggests than any adverse findings reported to the CSIRO will either be buried or altered and misrepresented to the public. Requests made by Victims of CSIRO group to concurrently release the investigation report and any preliminary reports to all stakeholders, again in the interests of transparency have unreasonably been denied.
In light of the absence of any significant improvement to the way in which the investigation is conducted, we must continue to maintain the position that participation in this investigation is not in the interest of our members.
We strongly refute the assertion made by Professor Pearce that we do our members a grave disservice in discouraging them from engaging in the investigation. We strongly encourage anyone contacting us in relation to the investigation to review all material available and make their own determination on whether or not to participate.
We simply publish an opinion which unfortunately happens to be contrary to the view expressed by Professor Pearce.
Provided below is the letter from Professor Pearce published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Further information in relation to the Investigation can be obtained directly from the HWL Ebsworth Website located at:
Here’s the brief
The article “Science second in toxic CSIRO work culture” (April 13) inaccurately describes my investigation.
Current and former CSIRO staff may make submissions (until May 27) about the conduct of current or former staff during Phase 1. In July, I will report on each submission and on my general findings (including lessons learnt and recommendations). After July, I will further investigate certain submissions by former staff about current staff.
I cannot further investigate during Phase 2 submissions by current staff (who have access to CSIRO’s mechanisms for raising these matters). However, if at the end of Phase 1, I consider that the case of a current employee requires special attention, I will recommend that to CSIRO.
I also cannot further investigate during Phase 2 submissions about former staff because CSIRO cannot take misconduct action against them.
The article misstates what I can do with matters that have been formally investigated or considered by a court/tribunal. In fact, I can investigate certain matters so long as a fair, independent body has not determined/is not determining whether or not there was bullying or other unreasonable behaviour.
The Victims of CSIRO group criticises that I can only make recommendations to CSIRO and that not all my findings will be published. Of course, all that an investigation can do is make recommendations.
Under our system of governance, inquiries, royal commissions and parliamentary committees are all limited to making recommendations. It is up to the government to decide if those recommendations are accepted.
The article’s criticism could be applied as much to the royal commission into child sexual abuse and to the defence abuse response taskforce as to my investigation.
My general findings report will be published. My findings about individual allegations will not be published so as to protect individuals’ privacy.
The victims of CSIRO do their members a grave disservice in discouraging them from engaging with my investigation. They will not have another opportunity to have their concerns reviewed by an independent body. I urge persons who have been subjected to or witnessed bullying or other unreasonable behaviour in CSIRO to contact the investigation team on 1800 465 298 and to read http://www.hwlebsworth.com.au/csiro-investigation.
Emeritus Professor Dennis Pearce CSIRO Independent Investigator for Allegations of Workplace Bullying and Other Unreasonable Behaviour