What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 11 – 17 April 2022

First Imprisonment for Individual PCBU for Industrial Manslaughter

The first individual to be convicted in Australia for industrial manslaughter has been sentenced to five years imprisonment. Industrial manslaughter laws exist in Qld, Victoria, ACT, NT and WA. While the conviction related to a death of a volunteer when a load from a fork lift struck him, the application of the industrial manslaughter provision is a warning for all employers and individuals to take seriously their duty to provide and maintain a work environment without risks to health and safety. This requires them to undertake adequate hazard identification and risk assessment, adoption of safe systems of work and keep records of and create an auditing/review system. These requirements are regardless of whether the harm suffered is physical or psychological and industrial manslaughter could apply to a situation where a person experienced workplace bullying and then committed suicide as a consequence of this behaviour.

At Least One-Third of Opera Australia Employees Believe It Has Bullying Problem

Bullying claims have surfaced following the treatment of performers in the recent Sydney production of The Phantom of the Opera. Multiple cast members said they would not perform because of how Callum Francis was being treated during production. Callum Francis played Raoul in the opera and was stood down on 12 April. His fellow performers have expressed their views that Francis was stood down due to strained relations with the director of Opera Australia, Lyndon Terracini. Following this incident, survey results were leaked revealing that one third of Opera Australia staff believe bullying and harassment is an issue at the company. The survey showed that employees did not believe that Opera Australia dealt with complaints adequately. Terracini is planning to leave his position as director of Opera Australia at the end of 2023.

From The Commissioner – Discrimination Is Bad Sport

The Equal Opportunity Commission published an announcement on 13 April speaking out against discrimination in sport. The Commissioner expressed that sporting professionals have a responsibility to call out discriminatory behaviour due to their widespread influence in Australian society. The Commissioner referenced the recent decision of Fox Sports to dismiss a reporter who made sexist and homophobic slurs. The Commissioner also referred to racist slurs being made about West Coast star Liam Ryan and his family. West Coast responded by saying the comments were “abhorrent.” This is part of a broader effort to condemn discrimination, sending a strong message that these attitudes do not belong in Australian society.

Virgin Australia and Its Boss Jayne Hrdlicka Hit With Bullying Claim

Virgin Australia is being sued by a senior pilot, Captain Michael Fitzgerald, for bullying. Mr Fitzgerald commenced a Federal Court action on 12 April against the company. The allegations are directed at Virgin’s CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka. Mr Fitzgerald was previously employed as the general manager of flight operations and chief pilot. Prior to being dismissed from this leadership position, Mr Fitzgerald was supported by Virgin Australia through a prolonged period of paid absence. The bullying allegations were first raised by the pilot in December 2021. These claims were externally investigated in January 2022. It was concluded that Mr Fitzgerald’s accusations were unsubstantiated.

Prospective Payout to Tudge’s Former Staffer Recognises ‘Major Claim’

Rachelle Miller has received a six-figure settlement payment after taking legal action for bullying, harassment and discrimination against Alan Tudge. The two were having an affair which gained media attention after Ms Miller went public with details of their relationship. Ms Miller alleged that she was emotionally, and on one occasion physically, abused. Before commencing legal action, Ms Miller had lodged a workplace complaint through the Department of Finance. The details of the settlement remain confidential, however, it is estimated Ms Miller received $500,000. A non-disclosure agreement was signed but it only prevents Ms Miller from disclosing the exact amount she was paid.

Scott Morrison Backs Liberal Candidate Lobbying Against Transgender Women Playing Women’s Sports

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has supported Liberal candidate Katherine Deves on her stance that transgender women should not compete in women’s sports. Katherine Deves is the candidate for the seat of Warringah. She has been the centre of controversy because she is the co-founder and spokesperson for a group that wishes to stop transgender women participating in women’s sports. Scott Morrison “welcomed” her selection as the Liberal candidate, saying she has been “outspoken and brave” on this particular issue. Scott Morrision shares in Katherine Deve’s views which have been condemned by Equality Australia, a national LGBT+ advocacy group. These views are considered transphobic and discriminatory by suggesting that transgender women are not women.

Paperwork Delays Hitting Veterans’ Cases

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has revealed that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has major delays in processing paperwork and complaints. The Commission referred to the DVA’s systems as “antiquated”, leaving claims unanswered for long periods of time. On 11 April, the head of Comcare, Susan Weston, gave evidence to the Royal Commission about health and safety issues in her interactions with the Australian Defence Force. She raised a concern that the Work Health and Safety Act does not require the ADF to report incidents of bullying and sexual assault unless it results in death or hospitalisation. The lack of reporting on these issues contributes to critical time delays for Comcare when dealing with bullying claims.