12 Questions put to CSIRO Inquiry Investigators by Advocacy Group “Victims of CSIRO”

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

On 22 March 2013, two representatives of Victims of CSIRO met with Prof Dennis Pearce and Melanie McKean of HWL Ebsworth, who are the investigators in the CSIRO Inquiry into Workplace Bullying and Other Unreasonable Behaviours (see Terms of Reference).  The investigators were asked a number of questions.  Summarised versions of some of the questions and their answers are provided below.  While we do not doubt the sincerity or personal integrity of the investigators, their answers do not overcome the serious concerns we have in respect of this “investigation”.

 

Question number

 

Question from ‘Victims of CSIRO’

(paraphrased)

 

Answer from Dennis Pearce (DP) or Melanie McKean (MM) of investigators

HWL Ebsworth (HWLE)

 

1.

Question: There appear to be a number of untenable conflicts-of-interest in this inquiry. For example, the inquiry will report back to the very same senior managers that many members of Victims of CSIRO allege to be responsible for the apparent systemic unlawful conduct.  Won’t these managers simply ignore your recommendations?  That has been the pattern of conduct by them to date. Answer to question 1

2.

Question: The CSIRO Inquiry is not directed to investigate the central allegation raised by many members of Victims of CSIRO, namely that there has been a long-term, systemic pattern of unlawful conduct, including bullying, by the most senior managers of CSIRO. Rather, it is focussed on investigating individual acts of workplace bullying. Why? Answer to question 2

3.

Question: If the inquiry will consider systemic problems, why then does it exclude so many cases that would be highly pertinent to a proper investigation of systemic unlawful conduct by the senior management of CSIRO?  Additional Information:  The inquiry excludes cases that: (i) occurred before 2006, (ii) have been before courts and tribunals, (iii) involve alleged criminal conduct, (iv) are brought by current employees, and (v) involve respondents which are no longer employed by CSIRO. Answer to question 3

4.

 Question: Haven’t the exclusions been put into place by CSIRO legal specifically to minimise the number of people making reports and thereby conceal the systemic patterns?  Additional Information:  Phase 2 of the investigation will not deal with complaints from current employees.  Also, if a respondent is no longer employed by CSIRO, then there will be no further investigation. Exclusions such as these arguably make it impossible to properly investigate the systemic patterns that exist. Answer to question 4

5.

Question: CSIRO is known for re-interpreting allegations into unrepresentative forms that are more favourable to the organisation.  They then investigate these unrepresentative allegations instead of the original allegations.  Doesn’t the current inquiry do that and, moreover, create exclusions that make the proper investigation of our original allegation of systemic problems effectively impossible?  Answer to question 5

6.

 Question: Won’t CSIRO simply ignore unfavourable recommendations you make?  They haven’t committed to take any action whatsoever.  Answer to question 6

7.

Question: By participating in an unrepresentative, CSIRO-driven, re-interpretation of our central allegation, haven’t you compromised your “honest broker” status? Answer to question 7

8.

Question: Why didn’t you ask CSIRO to consult with the stakeholders, including ourselves, before setting the terms of reference?  There was no consultation even with the Shadow Minister of Science, who has publicly said that she is aware of over 60 complaints about CSIRO. Answer to question 8

9.

Question: The problem is that our members think your investigation is fatally flawed.  Would you be willing to restructure the terms of reference? Answer to question 9

10.

Question:  People who lodge complaints with the inquiry will be placing themselves at substantial risk, both psychologically and legally. What benefit is there for them to participate? Answer to question 10

11.

Question: Isn’t the inquiry designed so that, in the first Phase, CSIRO will find out who of their staff are in trouble.  Then, before the second phase, they will have the opportunity to get rid of them, so that their cases are not investigated in Phase 2.  In such a scenario, people will submit their allegations to you, but you will then not be allowed to tell them whether the respondents to their allegations are still employed by CSIRO.  In effect such complainants will get no feedback whatsoever as to whether their allegations will even be investigated at all. Answer to question 11

12.

Question: The Inquiry appears set to repeat many of the “mistakes” and “problems” that occurred in the recent Defence Inquiry. The same persons who ran the Defence Inquiry are now running the CSIRO inquiry. Why were no corrections made? Additional information: The proposed CSIRO inquiry is very similar in structure to the Defence Inquiry which concluded in 2011. That inquiry was run by the same persons who will run the current CSIRO inquiry; namely, Prof Dennis Pearce and Melanie McKean. This raises the question: why should the same problems, dysfunction, and conflicts that occurred in the Defence Inquiry not occur in the CSIRO inquiry? The problems include:i. The public allegations of Adair Donaldson of Shine Lawyers (see here ), who complained that many of his clients made submissions to the Defence Inquiry, but received no feedback, or worse they received feedback that was unwarranted and distressing.

ii. The public complaints by, amongst others, Senator Nick Xenophon, that the entire Defence Inquiry was hugely conflicted (see here). DLA Piper, who ran the inquiry, allegedly received in the order of $20 million per annum in fees from Defence for external legal work; they were the major supplier of external legal services to Defence. Thus, serious conflicts of interest appear to lie at the heart of the Defence Inquiry as they do in the CSIRO Inquiry.

iii. The personal role of Melanie McKean, who co-ran the DLA Piper investigation and has now moved to HWL Ebsworth to direct an inquiry into CSIRO that is substantially in the same format as that of Defence. (See her bio here). Hasn’t her move and that of Prof Pearce, to HWL Ebsworth been simply intended to obscure the fact that this is an identical Inquiry, run by the same team?

iv. The testimony of Dr Rumble of DLA Piper to Senate Estimates, noting that the government has failed to implement the recommendations of the Defence Inquiry more than 1 year after they were issued. Instead, a new inquiry has effectively been commissioned …. (Rumble’s complaints can be seen here). If that is the case, why will it not also happen with the CSIRO Inquiry? Why should our members submit reports under such circumstances?

Answer to question 12

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11 Responses to “12 Questions put to CSIRO Inquiry Investigators by Advocacy Group “Victims of CSIRO””

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If what is written here is the fact then this investigation is just adding insult to injury paid from the public purse.

Those who are filing their complaint with the investigation would be good idea if a copy is also sent to the shadow minister

Sophie Mirabella MP
Federal Member for Indi
Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science

117 Murphy St, Wangaratta VIC 3677
Phone: (03) 5721 5377
Fax: (03) 5721 8196

R2-111 Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: (02) 6277 2301
Fax: (02) 6277 8448

In fact the Minister has asked that a copy in confidence is also sent to the shadow minister.

There may be a possibility of the complaint being addressed fairly.

how much would be the bill to CSIRO by the “independent” investigator? After all, the investigation would be doing a good service to the senior staff by exonerating them of all the misconduct, harassment and fraud just to name a few. .

After the “investigation” is concluded the senior staff could say “look the independent investigation has cleared all of us senior staff”.

So must be a good hefty bill to CSIRO. Certainly hwl investigation would not let go of this chance to make money.

The bill is likely to be substantial. The investigation into the ADF conducted by DLA Piper cost somewhere in the realm of tens of millions of dollars. Two of the current HWL Ebsworth personnel (Pearce/McKean) worked on the ADF investigation also.

Lets not forget the tens of thousands of dollars each formal grievance costs CSIRO, of which there have been a considerable number and the millions of dollars CSIRO is throwing away on defending against legal action in which they are already well aware of the culpability.

Even more reprehensible, the CSIRO has forced other Government Agencies (i.e. Comcare) to spend millions of dollars, defending against compensation claims on the basis of false statements made by CSIRO “Witnesses”.

And not once has CSIRO been investigated for breaches of the Legal Services Directions (2005) as this behaviour clearly breaches their obligations to act as a model litigant in any legal matter.

Hopefully when the public sees the full ramifications of these legal frivolities on taxpayer dollars they will be forced to change their ways.

They all know each other for sure. Hwl personnel and CSIRO senior staff at the highest level sure know each other. They are friends.

Wel! That’s not a problem and people can know each other. But any investigation if it is independent and to have any credibility then it has to maintain an arms length distance, not by talk but by practice. Just saying we are independent doesn’t make them independent. And banking on Prof. Pearce background of commonwealth ombudsman dosent make it independent. it just adds to the suspicion because why should Prof. Pearce bring about a situation where he has to bank on his background to portray that the investigation is independent? He could have well said at the starting(by the terms of reference), look if you want me to do this investigation i cant report to the CEO or the board on my findings or any other matter in investigation.I will report only to the Minister and the Terms of reference should be set by the Minister and no one else.

Here we have a situation where the investigation is under the very entity which the investigation is “investigating” and also getting paid by that entity. That is an inherent conflict of interest. Terms of reference says if ther is evidence of misconduct by the CEO then the report will be given to the board and not the CEO, if ther is evidence against the Board then the report will be given to responsible minister.

But who looks at the evidence? Its the HWl investigator. They will just set aside the evidence or wrongly interpret the evidence and say there is nothing which implicates the ceo or the board. So the report dosen tgo to the board or the responsible Minister.

Some interesting points here. Many others share your cynicisms that the investigation is simply an attempt to whitewash any credible investigation of allegations within the CSIRO. In fact numerous former employees who have provided submissions to the investigation team have also provided copies of their submissions to Victims of CSIRO, as obviously they are concerned their own submissions may be ignored or glossed over.

Victims of CSIRO have elected not to support the investigation on the basis that many of the serious concerns raised in relation to structure of the investigation have not been reasonably addressed and serious deficiencies remain. The timing of the announcement of the investigation only days after the resignation of the responsible minister also smacks of opportunism and an attempt to “sneak the investigation under the radar”.

One might suggest that like the former investigation of the ADF, any negative report will be taken “in house” and managed out of existence. After all, what has really changed in relation to the culture of the ADF?

The CSIRO has a strong history of burying or modifying reports that are not agreeable to Senior Management. The Psychological Health and Well-being Committee’s 2009 report contained barely a single reference to bullying despite members of the committee reporting an unprecedented number of bullying allegations being submitted to the committee.

Anyone remember the Mercer Report? This was an independent study commissioned by the CSIRO prior to the previous round of Enterprise Bargaining to assess the salaries of CSIRO staff against their counterparts in other peer organisations. The report identified that CSIRO employees at the CSOF5 and CSOF6 classification levels were paid substantially below the colleagues in other organisations. Unsurprisingly, this report never saw the light of day and was not used to inform the negotiations for wage increase.

Instead the CSIRO have embarked upon a cost cutting exercising by forcing employees to reapply for jobs at a more junior level than they were previously classified under, while at the same time Executive Bonuses have increased despite many senior executives failing to meeting the Key Performance Indicators in relation to workplace health and safety issues which is a mandatory component of their performance assessment.

Given the increasing number of legal actions and compensation claims relating to bullying within the CSIRO, not to mention a significant number of formal grievance investigations occurring also in relation to workplace bullying and misconduct, it is very difficult to see how the HWL Ebsworth investigation will be able to conclude that there is not a significant and serious cultural problem within the CSIRO.

Then again, we have never failed to be surprised by the lengths to which some officers of the CSIRO will go to in order to avoid responsibility for their own deliberate actions! (read the post on https://victimsofcsiro.com/2013/06/27/128-lies-and-counting )

The jury is well and truly out on this one…

Some interesting points here. Many others share your cynicisms that the investigation is simply an attempt to whitewash any credible investigation of allegations within the CSIRO. In fact numerous former employees who have provided submissions to the investigation team have also provided copies of their submissions to Victims of CSIRO, as obviously they are concerned their own submissions may be ignored or glossed over.

Victims of CSIRO have elected not to support the investigation on the basis that many of the serious concerns raised in relation to structure of the investigation have not been reasonably addressed and serious deficiencies remain. The timing of the announcement of the investigation only days after the resignation of the responsible minister also smacks of opportunism and an attempt to “sneak the investigation under the radar”.

One might suggest that like the former investigation of the ADF, any negative report will be taken “in house” and managed out of existence. After all, what has really changed in relation to the culture of the ADF?

The CSIRO has a strong history of burying or modifying reports that are not agreeable to Senior Management. The Psychological Health and Well-being Committee’s 2009 report contained barely a single reference to bullying despite members of the committee reporting an unprecedented number of bullying allegations being submitted to the committee.

Anyone remember the Mercer Report? This was an independent study commissioned by the CSIRO prior to the previous round of Enterprise Bargaining to assess the salaries of CSIRO staff against their counterparts in other peer organisations. The report identified that CSIRO employees at the CSOF5 and CSOF6 classification levels were paid substantially below the colleagues in other organisations. Unsurprisingly, this report never saw the light of day and was not used to inform the negotiations for wage increase.

Instead the CSIRO have embarked upon a cost cutting exercising by forcing employees to reapply for jobs at a more junior level than they were previously classified under, while at the same time Executive Bonuses have increased despite many senior executives failing to meeting the Key Performance Indicators in relation to workplace health and safety issues which is a mandatory component of their performance assessment.

Given the increasing number of legal actions and compensation claims relating to bullying within the CSIRO, not to mention a significant number of formal grievance investigations occurring also in relation to workplace bullying and misconduct, it is very difficult to see how the HWL Ebsworth investigation will be able to conclude that there is not a significant and serious cultural problem within the CSIRO.

Then again, we have never failed to be surprised by the lengths to which some officers of the CSIRO will go to in order to avoid responsibility for their own deliberate actions! (read the post on https://victimsofcsiro.com/2013/06/27/128-lies-and-counting )

The jury is well and truly out on this one…

Administrator, there is nothing cynical about the post above.Its practical. Rather it may well be the fact. Hasent money been thrown in form of “independent” investigation, “Dependent”investigation and other fancy worded investigations before to cover misdeeds/misconduct, fraud ,bullying etc by the senior most staff? Whose money is it? its not the money of the senior most staff, its tax payers money. The senior most staff use the tax payers money to cover misconduct done by them and it appears they are very proud of it.

Each and Every case filed by many scientist bullied and pushed out is on CSIRO and not on any individual senior staff. So the senior most staff have nothing to loose, at lease not their money (which in any case would amounts to quarter of a million dollar annually for each of the senior staff) in terms of court cost etc.

Anonymous. Agreed totally. In some cases these executives are on salaries that are closer to half a million dollars than a quarter. If the money wasted came out of their own pockets as it tends to in the private sector then I think there would be a very big change in the culture of the organisation or failing that a spilling of senior executives.

Is the HWl billing model based on each complaint and the results instead of basing the fees on the time and labour put in by the armies of staff working for HWL?

The way they are marketing the investigation suggest its based on each complaint. They may charge a premium on complaints that implicate the senior most staffs and the board members. Appears to be a large business Model.

HWL Ebsworth will bill by the units of time various members of their investigation team spent on the cases and obviously various team members would have different hourly rates.

I would expect some adverse findings so that report looks credible but I am sure all inappropriate behaviour would be somehow justified and its severity diluted out.

HWL Ebsworth have to do it so that they keep getting these briefs. It’s a great money spinner and too hard to resist!


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