Scientist who was retrenched after reporting illegal conduct takes legal action against CSIRO

Posted on May 15, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Dr Gerry Swiegers, the scientist at the centre of the recent disclosures in relation to pharmaceutical giant Novartis and a CSIRO spinoff company, DataTrace DNA has recently launched a lawsuit against his former employer.  Dr Swiegers claims to have been falsely dismissed by the CSIRO after utilising the organisation’s whistleblower provisions to disclose alleged breaches of commercial and criminal law by senior CSIRO officers.

It may come as no surprise that many of those implicated in the recent scandal involving Swiss company Novartis were similarly implicated in Dr Swiegers whistleblower allegations.

Dr Swiegers’ statement of claims says that his allegations were effectively side-stepped by the CSIRO’s Senior Executive Management Team who narrowed the scope of the investigation to exclude his allegations of “breaches of the commercial and criminal law”.

Despite a letter of concern being issued by a firm of solicitors directly to CSIRO Chairman, Dr John Stocker indicating that there was prima facie evidence supporting Dr Swiegers allegations, the CSIRO Board of Directors declined to intervene.

Emails dated a few months after Dr Swiegers’ lodgement of the public interest disclosure suggest that the whistle blower respondents conspired to make his position redundant.  One email between two whistle blower respondents states that “redeployment opportunities would be available for all staff working on the project except for [Dr Swiegers} who would become redundant”.

Such actions fly directly in the face of testimony provided by senior CSIRO officials at past Senate Estimates hearings in which it was stated that a CSIRO employee accused of misconduct would not be left in a position where they had influence over the future employment of a person making such allegations.

Later, three of the whistleblower respondents are said to have engaged in a “sting”, in which they invited Dr Swiegers to apply for a redeployment position where they comprised 3 of the 4 people on the selection panel.

The whistleblower complaint, the composition of the interview panel, the email indicating that Dr Swiegers was to be treated detrimentally, and subsequent sacking of Dr Swiegers all paint a very different picture to that normally put out by the CSIRO executive.

It is not difficult to ascertain why so few whistleblower complaints are made in an organisation like the CSIRO, where people such as Dr Swiegers are presented as a clear example of what will happen to employees who consider disclosing unethical /criminal behaviours in the public interest.

We may also mention that in a letter published on this website, Minster for Finance, the Hon. Senator Penny Wong subsequently agreed that there was “a need to investigate” Dr Swiegers’ allegations.  We also previously noted an answer to a senate estimates question on notice which confirmed that CSIRO staff had generated 12,000 pages of confidential internal emails about Dr Swiegers in the last 3 years of his employment.

This is scary stuff and a poignant example of exactly what lengths federal agencies are prepared to go to in order to avoid taking responsibility for the actions of their senior employees.

Dr Sweigers’ Statement of Claim can be viewed here.

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7 Responses to “Scientist who was retrenched after reporting illegal conduct takes legal action against CSIRO”

RSS Feed for Victims of Bullying, Harassment, and Victimisation in the CSIRO Comments RSS Feed

The same happened at ASIC.

The bureaucracy will go to extraordinary lengths to quash any sniff of dissent or disclosure, even if it costs them multiple times what simply fixing the problems will cost. I wonder if the expensive ego’s are costed as a component of the senior bureaucratic salary package?

Dear Mr/Mrs/Messrs administrator, why are you wasting your time? Do you really believe you and the group can bring about a change? Bullying, harassment, fraud inappropriate conduct, misconduct is institutionalized within CSIRO. This will not change. Changing what is institutionalized takes decades not years. Comcare, senior staff all are involved in this and will protect the status quo. To that end they will do all that is required including giving a good report for their comrades to anywhere and everywhere.

What is necessary is a free and overwhelming press/media to bring about changes and i feel sad and sorry that dosent exist in this part of the world. With the available few media outlets and few newspapers all the press can do is print the story in the 6th or 7th page of the newspapers and leave it at that. How may people read the 6th and 7th page of a newspaper? How may read newspapers anyway? Public memory is not that good and they tend to forget what they read in newspapers after a few months, its proved across the globe. What is needed is the government allowing a few hindered news channels that are 24/7. When news and current affairs are beamed into millions of houses and people watch that over and over again and again that will bring changes.

CSIRO or comcare have the least care about victims of csiro or other such group. All they are concerned is how to safeguard their chair/position.

The following quote sums it all up really:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [people] do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

We strongly disagree that we are wasting our time. Our key aims are to educate the public on these matters and to support victims of workplace bullying. Both of those aims have been successful and are ongoing processes which we will continue until they are no longer necessary.

Some of our members have been campaigning for change for a significant period of time and recognise only too well that this is not a short term effort. We are prepared for a long haul. Change in public sentiment towards workplace bullying has been quite strong in recent times and we feel will drive significant change in workplace cultures where damaging behaviours are no longer tolerated.

Whilst it is obvious there is an element of protecting ones own, particularly within Federal agencies, this will only work for so long. Changes to Work Health and Safety legislation now hold senior officers personally liable for the failure to address bullying within their agencies and makes it less palatable to condone such behaviours through failing to act.

Whilst it is true that this requires appropriate enforcement action to be successful, we believe that initial prosecution of senior officers for such failures will be the greatest catalyst for change of workplace culture.

If only Comcare would understand this fact, they might vastly reduce the incidences of psychological injury and the massive costs associated with rehabilitation.

Please don’t be a bystander and accept the things that are wrong within our workplaces.

Regarding the administrator comment
“Whilst it is true that this requires appropriate enforcement action to be successful, we believe that initial prosecution of senior officers for such failures will be the greatest catalyst for change of workplace culture”

They have now have the support of their comrades from comcare aswell! Is it mentioned prosecution in the above paragraph?

Its clear that csior senior staff and many ex-staff are adversaries in this, and in a dispute although very intense and will be, one need to maintain respect to the other. but looking at the plaints filed by staff and response by very senior csior officer its clear that there is total lack of respect from senior staff. This is how barbarians fight. I wonder how many got their PHD’s and Doctorates.

Thanks for finally talking about >Scientist who was retrenched after reporting illegal conduct takes legal action against CSIRO | Victims of Bullying,
Harassment, and Victimisation in the CSIRO <Liked it!

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