AAT claims uncovered
Several members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) have been the subject of multiple bullying, harassment or discrimination complaints, new stats show.
Labor senator Nita Green sought information about bullying and harassment claims at the AAT, and was told in Senate estimates that 17 current members of the AAT have had more than one bullying, harassment or discrimination complaint made against them since 2016.
“I would suggest it is a pretty serious step for an employee to make a complaint against the AAT tribunal member, as they are people with incredible power and standing,” Senator Green says.
“I would put a lot of weight to the employees making these complaints without going through an investigation process.”
AAT chief operating officer Jamie Crew told Senate estimates there were actually more current and former staff with multiple complaints made against them, but they are no longer with the AAT.
Three AAT members have had three or more complaints made against them.
“The one with five or more is still a current member,” Mr Crew said.
“They are still serving their initial period of appointment.”
AAT registrar Michael Hawkins told senators that the tribunal has a process for dealing with complaints, but is limited in its enforcement options.
“The options available to the president in any circumstance is to seek either an apology or an acknowledgement from the member involved, there may be counselling or the president may consider changing the members work area or practice,” he said.
“Unfortunately, our code of conduct is not supported by legislation and consequently there is very little the president can formally do.”
The former Coalition government has been repeatedly accused of stacking the AAT with politically-motivated appointees during its nine years in government.
Jobs worth up to $500,000 a year were extended to Liberal Party-linked individuals by the Morrison government right up until the dying days of the 46th parliament.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says he is seeking a meeting with the AAT over the bullying and harassment allegations.
“I was very concerned by the evidence I heard, and I have sought an urgent meeting with the president of the AAT to find out what is being done about this,” Mr Dreyfus said this week.
“We are still seeking the detail but let's be clear about this, our government is committed to making all workplaces free from bullying and harassment – we are serious about this.”
Mr Dreyfus said the allegations needed to be treated seriously, no matter when the alleged conduct occurred.
“I don't know what the former government knew and I don't know what information was provided, but what I can say is that now this has come to light we need to do something about it,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“We need to make sure that there are appropriate procedures in place and appropriate protections in place for anyone that is making a complaint of this nature.”