Sexual Harassment and Bullying Coverup at CSIRO Astronomy

Posted on November 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Investigative Journalist Hagar Cohen will be presenting her full investigation of sexual harassment and bullying within CSIRO’s astronomy department at 8.05am this Sunday, 20th of November on Radio National which will prove quite enlightening.  Unfortunately we know these are not isolated events within CSIRO and that there is a history of sexual harassment and even assault across many divisions of the organisation.   Again, the perpetrators who are typically highly placed employees tend to avoid any meaningful disciplinary action and continue on an upwards career trajectory whilst the victims often languish with destroyed lives and destroyed careers with little or no support from the organisation that caused them harm.  All the while, CSIRO’s People and Culture (HR) group attempt to thwart investigation of such allegations, engaged in behaviour of blaming the victims or simply pass off the allegations as unimportant.  One of our readers reported a CSIRO P&C employee as saying words to the effect of “we know about his behaviour but what can we do?”

When questioned in Senate Estimates in 2013, CSIRO confirmed that it has received a further 10 allegations about inappropriate behaviour by a senior employee but had failed to investigate because those people had not formally complained.

It is still gob-smacking that to this very day employers such as the CSIRO can and will bury their heads in the sand in relation to such serious allegations.

If you would like to share your experiences, please don’t hesitate to email us here at Victims of CSIRO (victimsofcsiro@gmail.com)


Hagar’s published briefing is reproduced in full below.




CSIRO covered up sexual harassment and bullying at astronomy department, say top scientists

Updated about 5 hours ago

Senior astronomers have accused CSIRO of failing to address a culture of bullying and sexual harassment in its astronomy department.

The organisation has conducted 16 investigations into alleged professional misconduct in the department since 2008, including an allegation of sexual assault and a case that involved the police.

The situation makes one astronomer so concerned she hesitates before sending her students to parts of the department.

“It bothers me because of the fact that they could go on and reoffend without us being able to protect those potential future victims,” said the ANU’s Naomi McClure-Griffiths, a former senior member of the department and one of Australia’s top radio astronomers.

“I’d hate to be the person who sent a student to go work with somebody and have them turn out to become a victim of harassment, and know that I could have prevented it.

“It becomes a very complex conversation — you work with co-supervisors and discuss if there are ways to subtly avoid that supervisor relationship coming about without ever having to say that somebody is a risky person.”

She spoke to Background Briefing to condemn CSIRO’s handling of an investigation that led Dr Ilana Feain, one of the brightest stars in Australian astronomy, to quit her tenured job and leave astronomy altogether.

In 2012 Dr Feain filed a lengthy formal complaint in which she accused a senior colleague of unprofessional and inappropriate personal attention over several years.

The internal investigation that followed was confidential, and so were the findings; Dr Feain is barred from discussing them.

The accused colleague was counselled and an adverse finding was placed on his file. He remains in his senior position.

“I’m still very angry about what happened to Ilana,” said Bryan Gaensler, an astronomy professor who worked closely with Dr Feain.

“Because Ilana had the attitude that she wasn’t going to fall into all these traps that other women were going through with regards to hitting glass ceilings, or having to choose between family or career, or having powerful men derail her.”

Professor McClure-Griffiths said CSIRO’s confidentiality provisions serve to protect those accused.

“The secrecy that’s put on around this … it only ever helps the perpetrators,” she said.

“If things are not right, we all have the responsibility to speak up and say they need to be fixed and yet we can’t.”

CSIRO was dogged for years by allegations of bullying, but a 2013 investigation by former Commonwealth ombudsman Dennis Pearce found “no major problem of workplace bullying or other unreasonable behaviour”.

CSIRO executive director Dr Dave Williams, who is in charge of the astronomy department, denied the level of secrecy was improper or that adverse findings had not been met with serious consequences.

“They’re confidential staff issues, and that’s the way it remains, and that’s the way all organisations work in these areas,” he said.

“There have always been actions implemented where the external investigator has deemed that the case has been misconduct or worse.”

Hear Hagar Cohen’s full investigation for Background Briefing on Radio National at 8:05am on Sunday, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, ABC Radio or your favourite podcasting app.

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Recent redundancies at CSIRO

Posted on September 30, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

A conscientious viewer of the Victims of CSIRO website has requested that we post the following piece in relation to Redundancies and Age Discrimination.  We would of course, implore those facing redundancy to seek independent advice in relation to their circumstances (and entitlements) as CSIRO are far from perfect (some might use far stronger language) when it comes calculating entitlements or even complying with their obligations under the Enterprise Agreement or other instruments.  One only has to look at previous breach notifications issued to CSIRO in relation to matters of employment!

Many of our readers have faced redundancy whilst at the same time attempting to undertake rehabilitation in relation to workplace injuries sustained as employees of CSIRO and it is timely to remind them (and CSIRO) the the obligation of the CSIRO to assist an injured employee does not simply cease with the termination of the employee.  Under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (Cth), CSIRO has an ongoing obligation to the injured employee until that employee has been returned to pre-injury or equivalent duties.

Be very wary of Rehabilitation Case Managers who unscrupulously attempt to coerce injured parties into signing off on rehabilitation plans which have not been satisfactory undertaken or completed.

Do you have more information in relation to CSIRO redundancies or other matters of concern?  Contact us at victimsofcsiro@gmail.com

Recent redundancies at CSIRO

Officers should seek professional legal advice if any of the matters mentioned below are relevant to their circumstances.
My own experience alerted me to potential age discrimination several years after I went through the redundancy process. While many people are aware that race and sex discrimination are unlawful in public life, many are unaware that age discrimination is also unlawful. Union representatives do not appear to be alert to age discrimination either, and I missed an opportunity because my particular situation was overlooked by the union representative. I believe my situation was actionable under the Fair Work Act 2009 s 351 and/or the Age Discrimination Act 2004. Age discrimination suffers from a low profile within the community, and this needs to change because of the double whammy of legislated increases to the pension age and rampant workplace ageism. The commissioner has recently attempted to do this, see the “Willing to work” report here: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/age-discrimination
Earlier this year I made a request to CSIRO Corporate HR for data regarding the age profiles of officers made redundant over the last 5 years. Senior management stonewalled and obfuscated, and finally delivered a three line email containing no meaningful data, with words to the effect that they could not see any evidence of bias in redundancies against those aged over 45 years.
At the same time I made requests for data to the CPSU. The CPSU are entitled to receive this data as of right as part of the EA bargaining process. My initial enquiries were again disregarded, but after calling on some old contacts to pull strings, data was eventually delivered. I can make it available upon request. It represents the age and CSOF level statistics for redundancies across various sites over the period identified above.
****I strongly suspect that redundancies during the last 5 years have disproportionately impacted officers over the age of 45 years.****
Age discrimination in the workplace is unlawful under the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth). It is also unlawful under the general protections identified in s 351 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The rights of older CSIRO officers stand to be trammelled under Silicon Larry’s watch, unless those surviving officers are vigilant.
In establishing that there has been age (or sex or race) discrimination in a redundancy process, the court will need statistics describing the age (or sex or race) composition of the workplace prior to the sackings, plus the the statistics for all the officers sacked, and will make a comparison for the purpose of assessing each officer’s circumstances and the conduct of management when identifying officers for retrenchment.
There is a 12 month limitation period for lodging a complaint in the AHRC, starting from the time the conduct (unlawful sacking) takes place, although an extension of the limitation period may be arguable, based on ignorance of the law. Anecdotally, I have heard that it is more difficult to be granted an extension to bring an action under the Fair Work Act: the complaint period is relatively inflexible. For this reason, I would recommend affected officers seek advice about collective actions in the AHRC, unless they have been made redundant within the last month. In that case, an action under the Fair Work legislation might still be possible. Check with your legal advisor.
The evidence I have been given suggests that ageism is a live issue at different CSIRO sites, and elsewhere in the public service. There may also be race biases when identifying officers for redundancy.
Finally, officers should not be dissuaded from possible action because their manager said they were made redundant for “operational reasons”. If it can be demonstrated that there were reasons in addition to simply identifying certain officers for retrenchment from a pool of site employees e.g. if the officer was targeted because they were older than other staff eligible to be made redundant, then there are still grounds for age discrimination. This will depend on the composition of the site workforce at the time, and the ages of any other officers made redundant. Certain provisions in the legislation may apply in instances when there is more than one reason for redundancy (which includes the officer’s age), and when these deeming provisions apply, the court will assume that the unlawful reason (officer’s age) was the only reason for the redundancy, and that the retrenchment is discriminatory.
I strongly recommend that officers in doubt about the legality of their redundancy seek professional legal advice.
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Article describing CSIRO “Self Harm”

Posted on May 26, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article published in The Age newspaper supports the long held believe by many current and former CSIRO employees that the fastest way out of the organisation is to be recognised by the awarding of a CSIRO Medal or in the presentation of Awards from a body of peers.

One may be lead to opine that in such circumstances the CSIRO executive, who are demonstrably adverse to any difference of scientific opinion from within, may feel threatened by the high international regard held for such employees which severely limits CSIRO’s ability to control such employees and therefore the best course of action is to dispense with such an employee forthwith.

We have seen examples of this happen many times before by the CSIRO who is desperate (one might even say to a phobic level)  to control the scientific opinions expressed by its employees who may express an independent professional scientific opinion that is inconvenient, and one may even dare to so contravening of the “fearless and independent” scientific advice offered by CSIRO to the Australian public.


The bizarre self-harm that suggests CSIRO has lost its way

May 22, 2016

The treatment of John Church should prompt questions for the Turnbull government.

CSIRO’s plans to shed 275 staff will impact upon our understanding of how climate change is going to affect Australia, explains Fairfax’s Peter Hannam.

CSIRO’s decision to sack the global expert on sea level rise – while he was working at sea, three weeks from shore – is a bizarre form of self-harm that suggests the national science agency has lost its bearings.

Assuming the federal election campaign at some point considers the future of science in this country, the treatment of John Church should prompt questions for the Turnbull government.

Two weeks ago, Church was the co-author of a new peer-reviewed study that found five reef islands in the Solomon Islands have disappeared due to the combination of sea-level rise and high-powered waves.

This is significant not just of itself, but because of what it points to: the area is considered a sea rise hot-spot, with the level increasing up to three times faster than the global average. The study gives an insight into what the future might look like.

A couple of weeks earlier, Church was co-author of a letter published by the internationally respected Nature group that sets out the evidence that humans have been the dominant force in the accelerating increase in sea level since 1970.

I mention these two pieces of research not because of their particular importance, but because they are just the most recently available examples of Church’s work, which stretches back to the late 1970s when he was hired by the national science agency after completing a PhD in physics.
CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall.

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall. Photo: Daniel Munoz

In science, peer-reviewed papers carry the weight of gold bars. Church’s research – using tidal gauges and satellite data to calculate the pace at which the sea is rising across the globe, and the extent to which different factors are contributing to it – has yielded more than 150.

His CV includes the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research and CSIRO’s Medal for Research Achievement. He has twice been a coordinating lead author of chapters in the era-defining reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

After first being reported by Fairfax Media’s Peter Hannam, his sacking was picked up by the New York Times. Its report quoted NASA scientist Joshua Willis describing Church as one of the world’s top 10 climate scientists. He summarised: “It is sad and embarrassing for the Australian government.”

Scientists who spoke with Fairfax Media backed this up. They noted Church is conservative and meticulous in his work and public statements. He has often warned against inflated estimates of what can be projected with confidence across this century. He is also a leader, widely praised for his quiet guidance of younger scientists.

To state the obvious, this is not expertise you should give away lightly.

Since CSIRO’s plan to axe 275 scientists was announced, Church has been among those who have spoken out forcefully against the cuts to climate programs in particular, arguing they breach Australia’s commitment to escalate research as part of the climate deal reached in Paris in December.

Some within CSIRO believe it is likely Church was targeted due to his outspokenness. But it is not clear whether this is the case as CSIRO has signalled it is moving away from investigating global sea level rise.

It is making this cut despite sea level rise being a developing area of science that is clearly in Australia’s interest to understand thoroughly.

On average, seas have risen more than 20 centimetres since the late 19th century. The most conservative estimates project a further increase of between 30 centimetres and a metre by the end of this century, depending on greenhouse gas emissions.

This is already having real-world ramifications for coastal planning and existing waterfront infrastructure worth billions. You might think a better understanding of the problem would be helpful to plan properly.

This is also not an argument against CSIRO making changes. It should pivot to focus on areas of science that it believes are most in the national interest. If that includes throwing resources into commercially focused innovation, so be it.

What makes little sense is abandoning areas in which you have world-leading expertise, and where more information is unarguably needed.

Of course, Church’s case is just one high-profile example. It is understood 70 scientists in CSIRO’s oceans and atmosphere division alone have been approached about a possible redundancy.

It comes as the agency has been scrambling in the face of significant pressure from the scientific community, here and overseas. Chief executive Larry Marshall’s response was to spurn an offer by the Bureau of Meteorology to take over some CSIRO climate measurement and modelling, and instead promise to keep a smaller team at a new climate science centre in Hobart, employing 40 scientists.

It sounds good in a press release, but no details are available about how the centre will operate – they are still being nutted out. CSIRO’s partner agencies are privately concerned they are being excluded. They believe that to be truly effective the centre should be a national collaboration, bringing in expertise from all agencies and universities. At this stage there is no sign that will happen.

Meanwhile, CSIRO’s international reputation is being damaged. A recent Senate inquiry heard suggestions scientists overseas are concerned, and in some cases are crossing it off their list of potential employers.

To date, the government has ducked questions about the CSIRO cuts, citing its role as an independent statutory agency. In truth, the CSIRO act gives the science minister the power to direct the organisation if they choose.

At some point, government ministers should answer the question: do you support the discarding of world-leading scientific expertise that is taking place on your watch?

Adam Morton is on Facebook and Twitter

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-bizarre-selfharm-that-suggests-csiro-has-lost-its-way-20160520-gp094h.html#ixzz49j8ngGg0
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Important Message regarding unsolicited emails relating to participation in a CSIRO documentary

Posted on April 29, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Recently the Victims of CSIRO have been contacted by a number of people reporting to have received unsolicited emails inviting them to participate in a documentary relating to the CSIRO.

We wish to advise anyone who may have received such an email that this invitation is not endorsed by the Victims of CSIRO.

Any such decision to participate should be made on an individual basis and should take into consideration your own personal circumstances and expectations.

We respectfully request that any person(s) electing to participate in this documentary not purport to represent, expressly or otherwise, the views of Victims of CSIRO.

Should you have any concerns or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at victimsofcsiro@gmail.com.

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Senior CSIRO managers accused of using private email accounts

Posted on March 17, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

There is one reason and one reason only that senior CSIRO managers would use private email and that is to avoid legal and public scrutiny of decisions which they know they would never otherwise be able to justify.

The CSIRO has invested a considerable amount of money in its Records Management Systems and CSIRO policy (unless management decides to change it on a whim) requires that all employees, irrespective of seniority enter any and every record ( and that includes emails) into the record management system. In fact the CSIRO email system is set up to do just that, sweep the contents of official emails into the Records Management System.  The author of this post spent a considerable period of time working within the CSIRO’s Records Department and knows their processes well.

Quite simply put, a record is any document, discussion, email meeting minute and so on and so forth generated by ANY CSIRO officer in the course of undertaking their appointed duties.  I am sure there is a Records Manager out there who will be able to provide a better definition but for the purposes of this post such a definition will suffice.

Such records are vitally important where they relate to any official decision or decision making process/capacity which is undertaken by an officer of the CSIRO as they are required to justify the end decision.

Obviously the senior managers engaging in this activity are not certain that the contents of these records will enable them to justify the end decision, otherwise why would they seek to hide such discussions from proper scrutiny?

When it comes to decisions relating to the future of its employees, the CSIRO has a very poor track record in meeting its obligations, particularly in relation to its Enterprise Agreement which underpins the rights and responsibilities of CSIRO employees.  One potential reason why such senior managers may wish to hide their discussions is so that they can avoid their lawful obligation under the Enterprise Agreement in advising the CSIRO Staff Association of their intentions relating to a reduction in staff numbers.  The decision to hide such discussions may also be a means to  avoid engaging in discussions with employees where such decisions are likely to significantly affect the way in which CSIRO employees undertake their work which is also an obligation under the existing Enterprise Agreement which it must be noted the CSIRO has failed to renegotiate with employees since it expired in 2014.

In any event, such deceitful practices from Senior CSIRO Management must be ceased immediately and those to be engaging in such practices be made answerable to a charge of misconduct.

Know more?  Feel free to drop us a confidential email at: victimsofcsiro@gmail.com

CSIRO’s use of private email looks ‘dubious’, says Senate clerk

Senate committee examining job cuts signals it will ask auditor general to investigate senior staff’s private email use

Protesters at a rally in support of the CSIRO
Protesters at a rally in support of the CSIRO. The Senate clerk says the use of private email may be a breach of the CSIRO’s code of conduct. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

The use of private email by senior staff to discuss job cuts at the CSIRO “looks like dubious administration” and may be a breach of its code of conduct, the Senate clerk has said.

The assessment has prompted the Senate committee examining CSIRO job cuts to signal it will ask the auditor general to investigate senior officers’ use of private email.

On Friday, Peter Craig, the director of the CSIRO’s weather research collaboration with the bureau of meteorology, told a Senate committee at least seven people in the CSIRO’s ocean and atmosphere division had used private emails to discuss job cuts because they were directed to do so.

In response to a question on notice he added that it was the oceans and atmosphere division director, Ken Lee, and the deputy director, Andreas Schiller, who had given the verbal direction on 28 November.

The CSIRO claimed it was meeting record-keeping obligations despite use of private email because it would ensure the emails were entered into its system.

In a letter released on Thursday, the Senate clerk, Rosemary Laing, wrote to the Senate committee investigating CSIRO cuts raising concerns about the propriety of using private emails, even if later entered into records.

“Although this subsequent ‘capture’ of the records originally conveyed by private email may not be contrary to the requirements of the Archives Act (or national security), it looks like dubious administration and may be a breach of the organisation’s code of conduct by senior staff,” she said.

The code states CSIRO staff must maintain “complete, reliable and accurate records of the performance of your work-related decisions and activities” and “ensure the proper storage of, and access to, records, including the confidentiality and security of information”.

Laing said: “Furthermore, it has understandably led to concerns that it may create difficulties for the Senate or its committees to seek information.”

The Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, chair of the Senate budget scrutiny committee, raised that concern at its 8 February hearing. He said “clearly, if private emails have been used, it is going to be very difficult for us to access information” about an executive meeting that decided to make 350 positions redundant.

“It is very concerning that there is no transparency around this if private emails have been used.”

On Wednesday, Whish-Wilson told the Senate full production of documents was needed to assess CSIRO’s restructure and reprioritisation and “to reverse these cuts to the best climate scientists in the world and to increase funding to this critical area of public good science”.

The opposition’s innovation, industry and science spokesman, Kim Carr, told Guardian Australia he was “deeply concerned that there is a case to answer as to why CSIRO staff were directed to use private emails”. He said this arguably breached two record-keeping laws and the CSIRO code of conduct.

“Given the Senate clerk’s assessment that this action is ‘dubious administration’ the Senate committee will now seek to have the auditor general investigate the matter.”

Carr said: “There are still serious questions of public-sector administration that CSIRO needs to answer.

“How many people were involved? Who issued the directive? What access was there by third parties? How can we be certain the information has been returned to the CSIRO and is secure?”

CSIRO denied there was a directive to use private emails.

At an earlier Senate committee hearing Alex Wonhas, the CSIRO’s environment, energy and resources executive director, said private emails were used to plan job cuts to ensure “information stays within a small group of people to not cause distress and concern among staff”.

On Wednesday the cabinet secretary, Arthur Sinodinos, told the Senate he had advice from the attorney general’s office and finance department that CSIRO officials had not breached their obligations.

“CSIRO senior staff have been reminded of the policy regarding the private use of emails,” he said. “If there are further concerns, these are best raised directly with the CSIRO, who are an independent authority with full responsibility for these matters.”

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Global spotlight on CSIRO cuts as work culture turns toxic, inquiry hears

Posted on March 14, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article was published on the ABC News website.

What is interesting is that the article hits upon the toxicity of such restructures on the organisations already “Toxic” Culture.  Little has changed since the CSIRO wasted approximately $4.5 million dollars of Australian Taxpayer money on an inquiry into Workplace Bullying and other Misconduct that failed to find any evidence of bullying because the legal firm investigating was not authorised to do so.

It can almost be guaranteed that CSIRO’s “HR Machine” will attempt to turn employee against employee in a rabid frenzy which it has done some many times already in its program of selling off the organisation piece by piece.

Global spotlight on CSIRO cuts as work culture turns toxic, inquiry hears

Australia’s top marine scientists are warning that the country’s international scientific standing will be damaged by the CSIRO’s climate restructure.

About 350 jobs nationally are expected to go by mid 2017, including an estimated 100 positions from the Oceans and Atmosphere Unit and 100 from land and water research.

A total of 191 staff work in the Oceans and Atmosphere division in Tasmania.

Scientific leaders from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) are giving evidence before the Senate’s Select Committee into Scrutiny of Government Budget Measures in Hobart.

The committee is headed by Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

Our whole reputation is at risk … our international reputation in delivering results.

Professor Richard Coleman

Senior CSIRO figures have also been called to appear and will give evidence via video link later.

IMAS executive director Richard Coleman and the institute’s Nathan Bindoff warned the world was watching.

Professor Bindoff attended a science conference in New Orleans last week.

“The questioners were always asking, ‘what is going on in the CSIRO?'” he said.

Professor Bindoff also said the international scientific community was “all very sensitised” to the changes, and pointed to a recent New York Times editorial condemning the restructure.

“It shows how influential Hobart has been,” Professor Bindoff said.

Professor Coleman agreed “our whole reputation is at risk … it’s our international reputation in delivering results”.

He also pointed to Hobart’s marine science study program, which he said consisted of 70 per cent international PhD students.

“That reputational damage … students will go somewhere else,” he told the committee.

Doubts on future creating ‘toxic’ culture

Another Hobart-based marine scientist originally from the United States, Dr Richard Matear, described a “toxic environment” within the CSIRO as all scientists were forced to question their future.

Dr Matear said leading scientists were already looking to other countries such as the US to further their opportunities.

Renowned scientist Dr John Church told the committee the CSIRO’s “reputation was trashed”.

Dr Church said the scientific community was “dismayed” by a lack of consultation and he expected to lose his job.

Earlier, the AAD’s chief scientist Dr Gwen Fenton told the committee the CSIRO was yet to consult with program heads about the proposed restructure.

She said news of the cuts was unexpected and scientists needed more details.

Dr Fenton told the committee she had felt “surprise” when she first heard about the changes and was “certainly deeply concerned as to what the impact will be to the program”.

“We know a lot of people on a personal level , which of course is very hard,” she said.

“Hobart is a very small community and the group on Aspendale [in Victoria] is also very close to us too. We have very good relations with all of the scientists.”

AAD head Dr Nick Gales is meeting officials in Canberra today.

Outside the hearings, about 300 CSIRO workers and family members gathered to protest against the proposed cuts.

A petition signed by 150 scientists attending the conference has called on the Federal Government to reconsider the organisation’s restructure.

The hearing coincides with an international climate conference on ice research in Hobart.

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Stop the Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault within the CSIRO

Posted on February 12, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

A CSIRO employee has recently contacted the Victims of CSIRO group to request that we ask our members to sign a petition to end the vilification they have experienced subsequent to making a complaint of sexual harassment and assault.

<petition has since been closed>

As we know this is certainly not an isolated case of sexual misconduct within the CSIRO. Long-time members of the Victims of CSIRO will remember that the CSIRO leadership were previously asked to explain before Senate Estimates why the organisation had not followed up evidence of sexual harassment and even sexual assault against a further 12 female employees after another employee lodged a complaint against a former flagship director. Of course the reprehensible excuse from CSIRO management was that the women had not formally lodged complaints.

There is this thing called duty of care for its employees which the CSIRO still seems not to have grasped, let alone acting with common decency.

We also know from discussion with our members who have experienced sexual harassment and assault within the CSIRO that CSIRO People and Culture (HR) continually fail to act on such complaints and even force the victims of such abhorrent behaviour to continue working under the supervision of their tormentors.

Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault are NEVER acceptable forms of behaviour and the CSIRO needs to do a damn sight more than it is currently doing to eradicate such behaviour from within the workplace.

Have you experienced Sexual Harassment or Sexual Assault within the CSIRO? Feel free to send us a confidential email at: victimsofcsiro@gmail.com

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Old Article from Financial Review – Has the CSIRO Losts Its Way?

Posted on October 7, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This is an old article from the financial review published back in October 2012 but is a great retrospective read.  After all, CSIRO has done away with much detested Matrix Management Structure which just about any blind freddy could see was a disastrous mismatch for the organisation (except perhaps the top 30 or so most highly paid executives who traveled at great expense to international destinations to view the matrix structure in the wild in organisations such as Boeing and IBM who have such management structures in place in their research facilities ironically enough within Australia!).

The answer of course is a resounding ‘YES’, at least insofar as we see it.  The best science is supposed to be fearless and while our scientists cringe at the prospect of being made ‘surplus to requirements’ should their particular field of research contradict the message that their managerial overlords are spinning to their governmental and industrial backers then the CSIRO will continue to be lost!

Has the CSIRO lost its way?

CSIRO has moved from basic research to an obsession with management, writes Garth Paltridge. Scientists test building materials in NSW.
CSIRO has moved from basic research to an obsession with management, writes Garth Paltridge. Scientists test building materials in NSW. Stevan Postles
by Garth PaltridgePoliticians are more or less obliged to seek advice from their own government agencies, and on matters of science in Australia this usually means seeking advice from a monolithic CSIRO.

The problem is that, while it is still a great organisation, the CSIRO is no longer as independent and unbiased as we once imagined it to be. The pressure on it to obtain external funding has become so all-pervading that it is subconsciously forced to shade the colour of its advice towards the politically correct ideas of the day. This is particularly true, and is particularly a problem, in the case of non-industrial research (that is to say, “public good” research) for which the primary source of funding is the government itself.

It is said that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but it is still worth looking back a little so as to put the present situation in some sort of context.

The management philosophy of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was based on building a research division around a chief who was the best available relevant scientist on the world market. Up until the early 1980s the various chiefs had an unassailable authority by virtue of their scientific expertise, and as a consequence had a well-developed arrogance ensuring that CSIRO administrators didn’t argue too much either with the output of the division or with its scientific direction.

The world’s fourth computer, CSIRAC, was built by the CSIRO in 1949.
The world’s fourth computer, CSIRAC, was built by the CSIRO in 1949. Photo: CSIRO

The philosophy specifically encouraged “management by walking around”. This was expected not only of the divisional chiefs, but also of members of the CSIRO executive who occasionally visited divisions in order, so they said, to talk to scientists at the bench and see what they could do to help. Mind you, the executive members of the day were a cunning lot and probably good tellers-of-the-tale as well. But they certainly set a good example.

The whole system worked because the divisions were small enough for the chiefs to be efficient in a style of management designed to ensure that research was consistent with scientific sense. As a system it had its faults, but there is no question that it was spectacularly successful in terms of research output, of scientific bang for buck, and of the national and international reputation of the organisation. One of its defining characteristics was an absolute disdain by virtually all research personnel of anything that smelled of externally imposed bureaucracy.

External factors caught up with the CSIRO in 1986, when the McKinsey company was hired to review its management. Rumour at the time was that the federal government was unhappy with the CSIRO because it couldn’t track the detailed expenditure of its money.

This was probably true, but behind it all was the feeling that the CSIRO was doing too much basic research at the expense of research directed at specifically defined national problems and priorities. This also was probably true. It went along with a feeling in university circles that the very presence of the CSIRO was cutting them out of their natural constituency of pure research. It went along as well with the fact that the CSIRO was beginning to cost serious money and was operating in a manner a little outside what might be called normal administrative experience.

Penny Wong, then minister for climate change, energy efficiency and water, launches smart electricity grids, June, 2010.
Penny Wong, then minister for climate change, energy efficiency and water, launches smart electricity grids, June, 2010. Photo: Anita Jones

As a result of the McKinsey report, the CSIRO was rebuilt so as to be driven from the top down rather than from the bottom up.

New management philosophies emerged. One of them was to form large and geographically dispersed divisions by combining smaller divisions of complementary interests. No doubt there were attractive arguments for this sort of thing, but the outcome was to remove any serious interaction on scientific matters between a division chief and individuals of his research staff. The chiefs became, or were appointed to be, managers rather than scientists. As a consequence they lost much of their power. They became cogs in a machine, with much less ability to influence the scientific direction of their divisions, and much less inclination to question the views expressed by the organisation as a whole.

And what a machine! Nowadays the CSIRO operates under a matrix management system that runs into problems even in the engineering world for which it was originally designed. It is more or less bound to maximise both the scale of the management process and the number of its management personnel. Its major characteristic is a diffusion of the lines of responsibility. It has multiple reporting avenues that vastly increase the time a scientist spends on bureaucracy rather than research. Responding to formal reviews of one kind or another, preparing unreadable (and mostly unread) reports to stakeholders, and generally playing a survival game in a multi-boss environment – all of these occupations, while no doubt music to the ears of many a public service organisation, are not conducive to good and original research.

Perhaps more to the point, the operation of the matrix system with its inputs and outputs and themes and streams and flagships and business units and so on is more or less incomprehensible to the CSIRO’s employees, let alone to external bodies that may have to deal with and negotiate with the organisation.

The bottom line is that research by the CSIRO has become very expensive. Small business is priced out of direct access to the CSIRO’s expertise, and business of any size is wary of interaction simply because of the CSIRO’s reputation for excessive bureaucracy and aversion to risk.

In the wake of the McKinsey report it was decided that at least 30 per cent of the operating funds of the industrially focused divisions should be found from outside the CSIRO’s direct line of federal funding. The figure didn’t stay at 30 per cent for very long, and the restriction to industrial divisions didn’t last either. Nowadays rumour has it that every division is encouraged to generate at least 40 per cent of its income from external sources. Whatever the real numbers, generating money has become a significant responsibility of all CSIRO scientists, not just the administrators. The sources of such income in the case of the “public good” divisions inevitably boil down to other federal and state government departments.

Formal co-operation with other organisations has increased greatly. The problem is that co-operation has become something of an end in itself. Presumably there is an expectation that good science benefits from forced association with others because, it is said, scientists as a class retreat far too easily into ivory towers. Well maybe. Suffice it to say that the CSIRO has developed some peculiar ideas about what constitutes co-operation. While it was always fairly arrogant in its outside dealings, today it expects to be paid for the privilege.

A prime example concerns its interaction with the Co-operative Research Centres (CRCs). These appeared about 20 years ago, at least partly as a challenge to the dominance of the CSIRO in scientific matters. The CSIRO is a partner in quite a few of the individual centres, and usually contributes research staff to an overall effort that is supposed to be of benefit to the research aims of all the partners. It used to contribute them anyway. These days the centres themselves pay the salaries of contributed CSIRO staff – this with federal money supplied as additional income to allow expansion of the CRC effort beyond the sum of its contributed parts. How the CSIRO gets away with such an arrangement is one of the great mysteries of Australian scientific life.

According to its mission statement, the CSIRO seeks to have a profound and positive impact on the most significant challenges and opportunities facing Australia and humanity. It says so three times in slightly different ways in a half-page of managerial gobbledegook on the web, suggesting that the powers that be must be serious about the matter.

In the old days (there’s that nostalgia again!) no scientist worth his or her salt would have the time or the inclination to read such stuff. In these modern times when the path to scientific fortune is easiest via the ranks of management, it does indeed get read. With the ultimate result, in the case of the public-good research divisions of the CSIRO, that “a profound and positive impact” translates eventually to an encouragement of scientists into public advocacy (activism?) on behalf of whatever is the relevant cause. There is a vast difference between the scientific advocacy of today and the extension activities of the CSIRO’s agricultural scientists of the past. Advocacy is a no-holds-barred business of changing society’s mind about some issue, whether or not society wants to listen. The need for scientists to prove to their multiple managers that they have indeed had an impact – that they have influenced both government and the people – ensures that an enormous effort is put into public declamation of the worth of their research.

In short, the pendulum of the CSIRO’s philosophy has swung from what was probably an overemphasis on the basic research of individual scientists to an extreme and debilitating concern with the mechanics of management. Perhaps the most significant of the many negative aspects of the new style is a reluctance of business in general, and small business in particular, to deal with the CSIRO at all. Its reputation for treating a collaborator as no more than a cash cow is not exactly attractive to private companies.

So where to go from here?

First, there needs to be a pragmatic assessment of the basic reasons for the continuing existence of an organisation like the CSIRO. Comments to the effect that it exists to have a profound and positive impact on the challenges facing humanity are simply motherhood statements of no practical value.

Leaving aside straight-out industrial research for the moment, and bearing in mind the type of research implied by the titles of many of the CSIRO’s flagship activities (Energy Transformed, Water for a Healthy Country, etc), perhaps its existence can be justified most easily (and among other ways) by the need for scientific advice to federal and state governments on issues of public good.

Such issues generally fall into what these days some scientists call “post-normal science” where the facts are uncertain, values are in conflict, the stakes are high, and the matter is perceived to be urgent. They are usually highly politicised, so that official advice about them needs to be perceived by both politicians and the public as independent and unbiased. That requirement alone has, or should have, major implications for organisational structure, funding and scientific behaviour. The background here is that national and international groupthink (of the sort that seems to have emerged in the global warming debate, for instance) is distorting some aspects of serious science. Among other things, the CSIRO can do without a reputation for being no more than a mouthpiece for the science of others.

This is not to say that the CSIRO needs to maintain a continuing expertise on every public-good issue. It does say that it needs to maintain a goodly fraction of high quality, even if only vaguely relevant, fundamental research capacity that can be diverted as required into whatever is the current field of interest. An emphasis on an ultimate advisory role suggests a deliberate cultivation of a research flexibility whereby scientists can expect to change field, and even discipline, every so often throughout their careers. The current system is not designed that way. The CSIRO tends to employ new and additional research staff whenever there is a change of direction towards a more fashionable problem. The result is an increase of its salary bill that forces a greater reliance upon external funds.

It is not to say either that the CSIRO should avoid involvement with industrial development. Agriculture, for instance, is a key example where Australia should carry out its own basic and applied research. Other countries will not do it for us. The argument for home-grown industrial research in other areas of commerce is perhaps not always so strong – or at least is not always so strong that relevant science must necessarily be carried on within the CSIRO.

Second, there should be a complete rethink of the mechanics of the organisation’s research management. In particular, and for the benefit of both internal researchers and external stakeholders, there needs to be a return to some sort of understandable single-line authority. Hopefully it could be shaped so as to reinstate an emphasis on the scientific role of the divisional chiefs. The Max Planck Institutes of Germany (roughly the equivalent of the CSIRO divisions) work well with such an emphasis.

Third, any assessment of the CSIRO’s purpose should examine whether the organisation’s size and power within Australia stifles scientific competition and diversity of opinion. Formal deals for joint research with universities and other institutions sound good to those in the corridors of power, and probably are good in practice when the science has little to do with politics. But such deals also make it easier for the biggest player to minimise any public expression of the sort of dissent associated with science.

The real point is that the CSIRO needs to steer clear of the public service philosophy that politicians should be protected from conflicting advice. Science is, after all, about uncertainty. And politicians, after all, are paid precisely for the purpose of making decisions in the face of uncertainty and diverse opinion.

The Australian Financial Review

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Brutal Campaign of Bullying at CSIRO against Senior Research Scientist.

Posted on August 22, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article by journalist Noel Towell appeared in the Canberra times yesterday.  Despite spending $4.5 million dollars on an “independent” investigation into bullying within the CSIRO it is still abundantly apparent that little has changed in the organisation and that its employees are still being brutalised.  Surely it is time for Comcare to act and undertake a full investigation of health and safety breaches within the organisation which the Victims of CSIRO have been calling for a number of years now.

Taxpayers pay over ‘brutal campaign of bullying’ by CSIRO

August 21, 2015 – 10:02PM

A former government scientist who says he endured a “brutal campaign of bullying and harassment by CSIRO management” has won his bid for compensation.

I would come to work late, at around 10–11am, and spend a few hours reading emails and surfing the Internet.
Dr Moetaz Attalla

Former carbon science researcher Moetaz Attalla said he was told to “go and have your heart attack at another conference” by his boss in an incident that left him “finished” and mentally injured.

In the wake of the alleged attack, the scientist told the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, he would show up to work late, spend a few hours surfing the web and going to lunch before going home mid-afternoon.

Despite being made redundant in 2013 by the science organisation, which at the time was riven by bullying allegations, Dr Attalla will now be paid workers’ compensation for clinical depression.

The scientist worked joined the CSIRO as a graduate in 1985 and worked there “without any significant problems” until 2007.

The tribunal was told that the trouble began when another scientist, Dr Paul Feron, was hired to work alongside Dr Attalla on carbon capture technology and sparks began to fly between the two men.

Their relationship did not improve “despite the efforts of other managers within the organisation” and things got worse in June 2010 when Dr Feron was appointed as Dr Attalla’s boss.

The situation came to a head in February 2012 with a confrontation between the two men.

According to his evidence to the Tribunal, Dr Attalla asked Dr Feron why he had been refused a trip to a conference in Abu Dhabi and Dr Feron allegedly replied: “You go and have your heart attack at another conference.”

After the row, things at work were never the same again, Dr Attalla said.

“I would come to work late, at around 10–11am, and spend a few hours reading emails and surfing the Internet. I would then go to lunch with some of my colleagues and leave work at around 2–3pm,” he told the tribunal.

He went on to detail several other incidents of alleged unfair treatment at the hands of Dr Feron and other bosses at CSIRO between 2007 and 2013.

Dr Attalla was made redundant in October 2013 and the following month lodged a claim for workers’ compensation, for “clinical depression secondary to work related stress” with federal workplace insurer Comcare.

But Comcare refused to pay, saying that the CSIRO’s treatment of its employee had been reasonable.

When Dr Attalla challenged the refusal at the AAT, the insurer conceded that he suffered a mental injury, but argued it was a result of reasonable workplace actions by the CSIRO, excluding the 55-year-old scientist from compensation.

The actions included appointing Dr Feron as the boss, the refusal to send Dr Attalla to Abu Dhabi and a later conference in the United States, and the stripping of his status as team leader.

But tribunal deputy president James Constance was not convinced after hearing medical evidence that Dr Attalla’s mental health took a turn for the worse around the time of the February 2012 confrontation, which was not on Comcare’s list of “reasonable actions”.

Mr Constance ordered the insurer to pay out the claim, indicating it should cover Dr Attalla’s legal bills too.

Comcare claimants are entitled to their full salary for their first 45 weeks away from work and then 75 per cent of their wages until they reach retirement age or recover.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/taxpayers-pay-over-brutal-campaign-of-bullying-by-csiro-20150821-gj4gzw.html#ixzz3jWPVxYH7
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More questions arise about CSIRO CEO’s actions in failed company

Posted on July 29, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Provided below is another article hot off the press in relation to CSIRO CEO, Dr Larry Marshall’s involvement in the failed disastrous public float of Tech Company Arasor.  Off particular interest is the transfer of shares by Dr Marshall into a trust for which Dr Marshall steadfastly claims to have no interest.

CSIRO chief Larry Marshall silent on Channel Island­s tax trust

CSIRO chief silent on tax trust

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall. Picture: Simon Bullard Source: News Corp Australia

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall has refused to reveal the beneficiaries behind a Channel Island­s trust he filled with tech­nol­ogy company shares worth up to $7 million when they were sold in a series of off-market trades.

Details of the structure used by one of the nation’s highest-paid public servants have come to light after an examination of the accounts­ of failed laser-technol­ogy company Arasor, of which Dr Marshall was at one time managing director.

Shareholders in Arasor are suing Dr Marshall, former Arasor chairman Simon Cao and other former directors of the company after it was delisted and went into liquidation in 2011.

A group of shareholders claims Dr Marshall was a central figure in the company’s collapse, alleging he and other direct­ors engaged in misleading and ­deceptive conduct, as well as ­serious breaches of the corpor­ations and ASIC acts in relation to the company’s financial reports and a disastrous $81m float.

An investigation by The Australian revealed Dr Marshall had 1.4 million shares paid into Grantley Limited, a “charitable trust” based in one of the world’s largest tax havens, Jersey in the Channel Islands. Grantley also appears to be registered in another tax haven, the British Virgin Islands.

Grantley and its holding company, NovaTrust, appear to be managed by Channel Islands-based financial planning company Stonehage Trust Holdings, which claims to be a “multi-family office and trusted adviser to international ultra-high-net-worth families”.

Documents reveal Dr Marshall, along with Mr Cao, was the owner of a company JJR Management that was the sub-underwriter of the Arasor float in late 2006. That deal earned the pair the right to share in 9.3 million shares in the company.

Despite the Arasor float structure allowing Dr Marshall to contribute up to 6.4 million Arasor shares to Grantley Limited, the company’s annual report and disclosure statement showed he only held about 20,000 shares.

The 2006 Arasor prospectus reveals that Dr Marshall entered a $US12,000-a-month “consulting agreement” with Arasor-Cayman, Arasor’s Cayman Islands-based operation.

“In June 2006, Mr Marshall was granted 1,400,000 options in Arasor-Cayman,” the prospectus states. “Mr Marshall subsequently exercised the option and transferred the ordinary of Arasor-Cayman into Grantley Limited, a charitable trust.

“Mr Marshall does not hold any interest of any nature in the trust or the trustee of the trust.”

All shareholders in Arasor-Cayman had shares converted into shares in the Australian-listed Arasor International in late 2006.

The prospectus also stated that Dr Marshall and Mr Cao “have an interest in JJR Management LL” and were entitled “to be issued 9,333,333 shares, giving it a shareholding interest of approximately 10 per cent”.

The shares held by the pair were not subject to restrictions, meaning they could be sold as soon as the company was listed.

In a statement to The Australian, Dr Marshall denied he was a benefic­iary of Grantley or was involved in shares traded by the tax haven trusts. “Litigation about ­Arasor is currently before the Federal Court, which limits my ability to comment,” he said.

“I can say that I was not involved in any share trades made by Grantley, received no distribution from Grantley and am not a beneficiary of Grantley. I believe the 1.4 million shares issued to Grantley were never sold.”

Dr Marshall did not reply to questions as to why he first contributed the shares into Grantley, how many shares he was entit­led to under the sub-under­writing agreement or whether these were later contributed to Grantley. Neither­ did he reveal the benefic­iaries of Grantley or Novatrust.

Dr Marshall has been CSIRO’s chief since January. The CSIRO will receive just more than $5 billion in funds from taxpayers and the private sector over the forward estimates period. According to its latest annual report­, its chief executive stands to earn up to $800,000 in salary, superannua­tion and bonuses.

Despite Grantley Limited’s holding of 6.2 million shares in Arasor­ and being Arasor’s second-largest shareholder, Dr Marshall was not on the list of top 20 shareholders when the company listed in September 2006. At listing, its shares were worth $9.3m.

The holding by Grantley Limited was eventually disclosed to the ASX in a document dated February 6, 2007 — five months after Arasor listed. However, on the same day this document was lodged another disclosure to the ASX revealed the sale of two million shares by Grantley Limited in an “off-market trade”, reducing the holding to 4.2 million shares or 4.44 per cent of the company.

These trade documents were signed by a financial planner with Jersey’s Stonehage and a lawyer based also in the Channel Islands.

Based on the Arasor share price on February 5, 2007, the two million Grantley shares were worth $6.8m when sold. Grantley Limited is not mentioned in any further statement or financial reports, despite still holding 4.2 million shares in Arasor.

After reaching a high of $3.90 in March 2007, Arasor’s shares plummeted throughout 2007 and were worth almost nothing by the end of 2008. Dr Marshall resigned from Arasor in 2008 and it was delisted­ and in liquidation by 2011.

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