What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 7 January 2019 – 13 January 2019

Breach of Code of Conduct: Using Work Credit Card for Personal Expenses is Valid Grounds for Dismissal
Former union organiser, Nick Belan, has failed in another bid to be reinstated after what he alleged to be a ‘harsh, unjust and unreasonable’ dismissal. Mr Belan was sacked from the National Union of Workers in 2016 for alleged misconduct relating to a union credit card. His termination came after he admitted to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance that he had used the union-issued card for personal expenses, which he did not later reimburse his employer for. In 2016, Mr Belan applied to the Fair Work Commission to have his position reinstated. During the proceedings, Mr Belan claimed that the information he provided to the Royal Commission was not admissible pursuant to the Royal Commission Act 1902 (Cth). His application to the Fair Work Commission was rejected both in 2016, and in a 2018 appeal to the Commission’s full bench. In a last-ditch attempt, Belan sought judicial review in the Federal Court of Australia late last year. In a judgment handed down on 21 December 2018, the Federal Court dismissed the application and maintained that termination was valid.

Cruel Comments to Colleague Valid Grounds for Dismissal
Julia Bastoni, a former employee of ORC International, has had her unfair dismissal case rejected. Ms Bastoni lodged an application to the Fair Work Commission following her termination from the leading global intelligence firm last year. During the incident which lead to her dismissal, Ms Bastoni asked a co-worker to turn down the office heating. When her request was denied, Ms Bastoni quipped that her co-worker didn’t feel the cold because of ‘natural extra padding’. The Fair Work Commission Deputy President Richard Clancy upheld the termination on the grounds that Ms Bastoni’s comments were part of a wider pattern of unacceptable behaviour. The Deputy President also noted that her ‘dismissal was not a disproportionate outcome in response to cruel comments’.

Craig McLachlan Charged with Indecent Assaults Related to Work Colleagues
Prominent Australian TV personality Craig McLachlan has been charged with one count of assault and eight counts of indecent assault following incidents dating back to 2014. McLachlan, 53, was most famous for portraying long-standing characters on the iconic Australian soap operas ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’. Following allegations and an investigative report, it was found that McLachlan engaged in interactions with female co-stars which were indecent & inappropriate. McLachlan is pursuing a defamation action against Fairfax media, the ABC and former co-star Christie Whelan Browne for $6.5 million in defamatory compensation. In response to the proceedings, commentators have criticised Australian defamation law as favouring the plaintiff and posing challenges for confronting sexual harassment head on. McLachlan’s trial is set to begin Feb 4 in the New South Wales Supreme Court.

New CEO for Southern Ports

Southern Ports has welcomed new Chief Executive, Steve Lewis, who has been recruited for the task of managing the Albany, Bunbury and Esperance Ports – which ring in an annual trade exceeding $33 million tonnes. Minister for Regional Development, Alannah MacTiernan, has said that Mr Lewis’ appointment ‘marks a new beginning for Southern ports after what has been a difficult period for the organisation’. However, Ms MacTiernan is hopeful that Mr Lewis’ appointment will start a new cultural chapter for Southern Ports, stating that he ‘is one of Australia’s most experienced chief executives with a proven track record of building relationships’.