Workplace Bullying

Photo of man in suit with paper hate mask
15 August 2018

Consideration

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (15:34:12): My motion should be accorded priority because the workers of New South Wales need to know whether the claim of the Australian Labor Party that it stands up for victim workers is reflected in reality. A sustained stream of complaints of workplace bullying have been made against ALP members of Parliament, only a fraction of which have come to public attention. The 20 staff members complaining about Emma Husar are the latest in a long line of complainants concerned with bullying and violence.

Mr Michael Daley: Point of order: This is a State Parliament. Why are we talking about a Federal member of Parliament in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Members cannot take a point of order. Stop the clock.

Mr Luke Foley: What did he just do?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The consideration of a motion to be accorded priority should not be interrupted. The Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research will resume his seat. There has been an understanding in this place—and I stand corrected if I am wrong—that during the three-minute contribution of the member seeking to have his motion accorded priority no points of order will be taken. The motion we debated earlier was not a motion to be accorded priority, which is why I allowed the member to take a point of order. That is the end of the story.

Mr Michael Daley: Point of order: The Deputy Speaker and Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research and I sit on the committee that governs procedure in this place. Whilst the Deputy Speaker is technically correct in relation to motions accorded priority, the understanding we made when we truncated all these debates from seven minutes to three minutes was that we would not bomb each other out or waste each other's time.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is not my understanding.

Mr Michael Daley: I was at the meeting, but that is fine. If a member takes a point of order during these debates there is a way do to it that does not waste 40 seconds. Clearly that was an attempt—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is a debating point.

Mr Michael Daley: That is why we are angry. That is why I will be moving that the member be not further heard.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! It is alright for other members to say they were at the meeting—I am pleased that they were—but only interruptions to matters accorded priority were accepted. I do not recall that being the case for every three-minute debate we have in this House. I have made my ruling. If members want to challenge my ruling there are ways and means of doing so. I will ask the Clerk for advice and advise the House shortly.

Mr Michael Daley: Notwithstanding your ruling, I move:

That the member be not further heard.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Strathfield to order for the third time. The question is that the member for Ku-ring-gai be not further heard.

The House divided.

 

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (16:21:07): When the 20 staff members complained about Emma Husar, theirs were the latest in a long list of complaints about bullying and violence in the Australian Labor Party. They include, but are not limited to, complaints against the member for Prospect and complaints about former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's outbursts directed at his staff, which involved evidence on a leaked video. Who can forget former Federal Leader of the Australian Labor Party Mark Latham, who broke the arm of a taxidriver and almost broke John Howard's hand in a pre-election handshake?

The recent Emma Husar affair is instructive of the Australian Labor Party's attitude to bullying workers. The Labor Party engaged John Whelan, a former staffer of Michael Costa, Bob Carr, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, to investigate the bullying allegations. According to information published by the New South Wales Bar Association, Mr Whelan has been a barrister for only two years, he has no barrister's chambers—he is apparently working from his home on the Central Coast—and he does not accept direct briefs. However, the person assigned to protect the alleged workplace bully, Emma Husar, is none other than New South Wales shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon. Adam Searle, who has been a barrister for 18 years, not two years like Mr Whelan, and is an expert in industrial law.

When the Leader of the Opposition was asked on 23 July about the appropriateness of Mr Searle acting against Ms Husar's worker victims, Luke Foley said, "I don't see anything wrong with that." That is the nub of the problem. The Labor Party thinks it can hide behind a report that it will not release and that was written by an inexperienced barrister who apparently exonerates Ms Husar and believes that she need not resign from Parliament. At the same time, he found that the bullying allegations were made out against her. Luke Foley may not see any problem with that, but this Parliament and the workers of this State do. Therefore, my motion should be accorded priority.

 

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (16:32:43): I move:

This House:

(1)Condemns workplace bullying.

(2)Notes NSW Labor refuses to release the full report into the Federal member for Lindsay.

(3)Calls upon the Leader of the Opposition to ensure the shadow Minister for Industrial Relations explains his involvement in this matter.

The Australian Labor Party [ALP] machine has simultaneously played good cop and bad cop with the Emma Husar affair, but its endgame has always been to disrespect the interests of the bullied workers and protect the political interests of the ALP. How else can one explain selecting a barrister of two years' experience with strong ALP connections to investigate a matter of such seriousness? A party that truly cared about victim workers would have engaged an experienced, truly independent investigator and released its findings as an act of full transparency.

Instead, it has conducted a disingenuous investigation by a former ALP staffer and a barrister of only two years' experience, while at the same time protecting the bully of 20 staff members by having the New South Wales shadow Industrial Relations Minister advising Ms Husar. How did the ALP think it was appropriate to have its senior parliamentary spokesman on industrial relations pitted against the victims of workplace bullying? How do members dare scream across the Chamber on a matter of such seriousness? It shows that in so many ways Labor self-interest is always put before the public interest and before the victims of workplace bullying. We do not know the full extent of the evidence against Ms Husar; the report has not been released.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Clerk will stop the clock. I will have no hesitation in stopping the clock if members continue to interject. The member for Ku-ring-gai has the call.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS: The report has not been released, and we all know—and certainly Mr Whelan, Mr Searle and the ALP know—that confidential documents can have names blanked out—

Mr Chris Minns: Point of order—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Clerk will stop the clock.

Mr Chris Minns: Why is the clock being stopped?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Kogarah had three uninterrupted minutes to give reasons as to why his motion should be accorded priority. I made sure of that.

Mr Chris Minns: So what? Edmond had 30 seconds to make a brief point.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am telling the member that he was able to make his contribution uninterrupted.

Mr Chris Minns: It was outrageous—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It was outrageous, your comment.

Mr Chris Minns: Thirty seconds. My point of order is that it is clear that the member for Ku‑ring‑gai is referring to a script. I wonder whether he would seek the leave of the House and table it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: What is the member's point of order?

Mr Chris Minns: I am asking him to table the script that he is reading from; I think we would all like to read from it. Maybe we can mouth it at the same time.

Mr Gareth Ward: To the point of order: Mr Deputy Speaker—

Mr Chris Minns: He does not have to do it; it is an honest request.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Kogarah to order for the third time.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS: Confidential documents can have names blanked out so the facts behind the allegations can be made public and the identity of the complainants protected. Suppression orders in criminal cases do that every day of the week. But all we know about what is in the Whelan report is from an ALP media statement released on 10 August 2018, which says:

Complaints that staff were subjected to unreasonable management including, unreasonable communication, demands, practices and disciplinary methods have merit;

...

Whereas male and female complainants perceive and allege they have found much of the Member's management offensive and unreasonable.

After considering all sides of the relevant issues the Assessment has generally favoured the complainants' perception of events.

It is an extremely strange media statement because, unlike every other media statement that I have ever seen, no media contact is actually on the statement. That is the ALP idea of transparency. It does not release the report, it does not have any contact person and no further correspondence will be entered into. Given the weight of evidence supporting allegations of bullying, the ALP appears to have adopted a strategy that included leaking the allegations so that Ms Husar would be weakened and agree to leave Parliament voluntarily at the next election, but assigning the shadow Minister for Industrial Relations as a minder to the bully to ensure that she does not force an inconvenient by-election, causing damage to the ALP. It shows that the whole basis of the Whelan report was a cover-up. If Labor is for workers' rights, why has a member of Luke Foley's team supported the bully and not the worker victims?

If Labor want to show that it is for the worker, Luke Foley and Adam Searle should explain why they have supported the bully and not the subordinate employees. It is behaviour entirely incapable of reconciliation with the rhetoric of the Australian Labor Party, frequently used in this House, that they stand up for workers including the conditions of employment of workers. The Whelan report should have found and appears to have found Ms Husar to be a bully. Transparency suggests that the full report, redacted if necessary, be made public. A full explanation should be given by the Leader of the Opposition as to why he has allowed his shadow industrial relations Minister to act against the victims of workplace bullying. [Time expired.]

 

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (16:51:46): In reply: I speak more in sorrow than in anger and note that the Leader of the Opposition has sat in this Chamber and has not been willing to defend the actions—

Mr Paul Lynch: Point of order. Sit down, I am taking a point of order! It is in Standing Orders—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Clerk will stop the clock. Does the member wish to raise a point of order?

Mr Paul Lynch: I do indeed. As I said a moment ago, despite the fact that the member contemptuously refused to adhere to the Standing Orders and stood instead of sitting down when the point of order was taken—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Usually members stand in their places to indicate they wish to take a points of order. You were coming to the table at a hundred miles an hour, and I had not even called you. The member for Ku-ring-gai is now seated.

Mr Paul Lynch: The point of order is that the member for Ku-ring-gai's reference to the Leader of the Opposition is entirely outside the Standing Orders. If he wants to proceed against the Leader of the Opposition he needs to do that by way of another notice of motion. His attack upon him is entirely outside the leave of the motion.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS: To the point of order: Paragraph 3 of my motion is in these terms:

3.Calls upon the Leader of the Opposition to ensure the shadow Minister for Industrial Relations explains his involvement in this matter.

The motion, in its terms, mentions the Leader of the Opposition. Therefore my reference to him in reply was entirely relevant to that motion. Unfortunately, the learned member who interrupted me when he did not have the call now seeks to do the same.

Mr Paul Lynch: Further to the point of order: What the member for Ku-ring-gai said in his speech was outside the wording of this motion. He was going well beyond what was contained in the motion. That is why my point of order is correct. I suggest the member gets on top of his brief.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The debate on matters that have been accorded priority has usually been broad in scope. I overrule the point of order.

Mr Luke Foley: Of course you do. Of course you do.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Of course I do, Leader of the Opposition.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS: Although the motion calls on the Leader of the Opposition to ensure that the shadow Minister explains it, the Leader of the Opposition sat in the Chamber and said not a word in the debate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Stop the clock, please.

Mr David Harris: Point of order: My point of order relates to Standing Order 76.

Mr Luke Foley: You can thank Brad for this.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the Leader of the Opposition: We know what the agenda is now: "We'll thank Brad for this so we'll keep interrupting"—

Mr Luke Foley: It's that both sides get a fair go and you referee both sides, Thomas.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I direct the Leader of the Opposition to remove himself from the Chamber.

Mr Luke Foley: Are you sure about that?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I direct the Leader of the Opposition to remove himself from the Chamber. That is exactly what he was aiming for.

[Pursuant to sessional order the member for Auburn left the Chamber at 16:55]

Mr David Harris: My point of order relates to Standing Order 76.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You have a lot of support, member for Wyong!

Mr David Harris: What the member for Ku‑ring‑gai is suggesting is not correct, because he has accused the Leader of the Opposition of not doing something when the member in the other place has given a personal explanation and explained himself. The attack is unwarranted and out of order because what he is suggesting has already taken place.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank members for their points of order.

Ms Anna Watson: Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.

[The bells having been run and a quorum having formed, business resumed.]

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I place on record that the Leader of the Opposition's comments directed at the Chair and this Parliament were unparliamentary. The Leader of the Opposition's comments followed earlier comments that, in my view, challenged the Chair by saying what he would do if he did not get his way. I will check the exact words used by the Leader of the Opposition when he indicated that Opposition members would interrupt every debate and call for quorums. However, this Government will continue to run this Parliament and will include input from the Opposition when Opposition members are present. Under Standing Order 249A, the Leader of the Opposition may return to the Chamber in two hours.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS: The Leader of the Opposition's behaviour in this Parliament was bullying in nature. His behaviour reflects the matter I bring—in sorrow more than in anger—to the attention of the House. In the two Opposition members' contributions to this debate, which lasted six minutes—and I note that the Leader of the Opposition did not contribute to this debate—not one word was said in sympathy for the 20 worker victims of Labor member of Parliament Emma Husar. These workers were victims of workplace bullying. In many respects that is a sad reflection of where the Australian Labor Party is today.

Labor Party members care only about themselves. They put up faux processes, do not release reports and are not transparent because at the end of the day they only care about themselves. They do not care about the public, as was evident in their 16 years as a State Government. They certainly do not care about workers, although in their rhetoric they pretend to care about workers. However, their actions belie their words. I remind the House of what Gillian Sneddon said. Gillian Sneddon was a former Labor staffer—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Clerk will stop the clock.

Ms ANNA WATSON: I move:

That the member be no longer heard.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Shellharbour has moved that the member for Ku-ring-gai be no longer heard.

The House divided.

Motion negatived.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Ku-ring-gai has the call.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS: The gag motion was moved when I said the words "Gillian Sneddon". That is significant because Gillian Sneddon is the former Labor staffer who blew the whistle on child sex offender and former Australian Labor Party [ALP] member for Swansea, Milton Orkopoulos. All I had to say was her name because she said that after she blew the whistle on a paedophile, ALP members treated her like a traitor and what she described as "scum of the earth". We have seen that sort of bullying behaviour during this debate, and not a word was said in favour of the victims. [Time expired.]

Mr Clayton Barr: Point of order—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member's time has expired. The question is that the motion be agreed to.

The House divided.

Motion agreed to.