Friday, November 15, 2013


Colleagues not cases – managing people and resolving workplace issues: Report of the  Review of Allegations of Workplace Bullying and other misconduct at the Canberra Institute of Technology

Opposition response [Steve Doszpot in the legislative assembly October 24th 2013]

Let me record at the start, on behalf of the Opposition, the bravery and courage of forty two current and former CIT employees who came forward to speak up about their treatment at one of Canberra’s public education institutions.  This has been a long, very painful process and it continues.

Without their courage,  the culture of bullying and harassment would have continued. As recently as 2012, and in the face of a negative WorkSafe report, CIT and its senior management, most of whom remain today, were still arguing there was nothing wrong with its management.  Come October 2013, we are now being encouraged to believe they are changed people. Let the evidence over time speak for itself.

I note the Minister’s comments.  Charitably perhaps, because she has only come to this issue in relatively recent terms,  she could be excused for delivering such a glib, tokenistic response.

The Minister urges us all to “support CIT to rebuild its reputation”. What about the reputation of those 42 current and former employees?
Where is the call for us to help them rebuild their lives? The Minister and the Government remain and have remained for several years, shamefully silent.

The Minister says the report identified “some issues” in relation to “a small number of individuals”
I don’t regard 42 complainants as  just “a small number”.
Neither do I  regard systemic and ongoing workplace harassment that resulted in people unable to work fulltime again as just “some issue”.
The Report contains nine recommendations. Let me comment on two.

Recommendation 1 says CIT acknowledge and apologise for past failures in the management of a small number of areas within CIT.
In relation to that, the Minister advises CIT has acted swiftly and delivered a sincere apology. The swift apology took years in the coming, and the level of sincerity is not for the Minister to determine. It is for the victims to assess the sincerity of CIT’s actions.  For many, it will be a bridge too far.

Recommendation 6: Training for Managers
This is a very instructive recommendation.
It says: the Head of Service and agency heads finalise as a matter of priority induction training for new managers and an ongoing program of training and support to managers of people in line with the HR master classes initiative.

I have to ask how we can have senior managers in the ACT Public Service who do not have such basic skills and knowledge already. Such training would form part of any basic management 101 module. If indeed such basic skills are lacking,  is it any wonder we have so many instances of workplace harassment and bullying by managers.

The remainder of the Minister’s statement would lead us to believe all matters are now resolved. They are not. Several matters, including some that involve allegations against current serving senior managers, remain under investigation.

The Minister wants us to believe that CIT is a changed beast. She, and the Commissioner, have indicated that CIT has demonstrated “genuine commitment and good will in its response.”
Is genuine commitment and goodwill truly demonstrated when  CIT senior management took seven months  to respond to the claims lodged with them by the Commissioner in December last year?
Seven months.  And it wasn’t as if they were not aware of the issues. 

WorkSafe ACT had already delivered a stinging critique of CIT management, as did the former Education Minister when he issued an Improvement Notice, both of which were necessary because CIT simply did not accept it had a problem.
I hesitate to call this a whitewash but I am struggling to find another description.

Questions were asked of Mr Barr when he was the Education Minister. As far back as 2009 this was an issue well known and well denied. Dr Bourke’s actions need to be recognised because he was the first Education Minister to at least start the process of scrutiny.

Workplace bullying is not the exclusive domain of the CIT. We have seen it demonstrated also in the Department of Health and no doubt there are more examples yet to be discovered. It is one thing to have workplace harassment. It is how we deal with it, that is the critical measure.
If we continue to paper over what is a serious cancer we will learn nothing and it will continue. Justice must not only be done but appear to be done.
I am not convinced that some of the victims have yet received the appropriate recognition of their trauma.

The Canberra Liberals will continue to expose failure to protect people in their workplace environment and will not hesitate to hold to account those found to be responsible. We cannot allow the bullies to win and prosper and there remains too many victims who believe the bullies have won.

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