Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One reason South Australia must get an ICAC


Many types of issues taken to the Equal Opportunity Commissioner (EOC) would not fall under the umbrella of an ICAC, an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

However, my experience with the EOC, of engaging with a Government investigative body, is relevant when propped against the current Labor Government’s opinion that this state is adequately served by a number of ICAC-like bodies.

On 27 February 2003, I lodged a complaint of racial discrimination,sexual harassment and victimization  against one Executive Manager and one Senior Manager of the Office of the Public Trustee, and a complaint against the Office of the Public Trustee arguing vicarious liability.

On 10 June 2003, the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, Ms Linda Matthews sent a letter to Ms Catherine O’Loughlin, Public Trustee, seeking her response to my allegations.

Public Trustee Executive, upon receipt of this letter, consulted with EOC staff, and received assistance from that same staff to prepare the PT response for submission to the EOC! How the hell does that work?

On 2 July 2003, Ms Matthews received that response.

By letter dated 26 August 2003, the Commissioner, Ms Matthews advised me, in part:

‘I confirm that in my opinion your complaint is lacking in substance’

‘I am of the opinion that the Office of the Public Trustee took reasonable steps to prevent the behaviour from occurring’

‘I do not think that it could be established that the Office of the Public Trustee instructed, authorized or connived in the acts of sexual harassment’

As a result of this determination, I lodged a complaint against the EOC with the State Ombudsman, Mr. Eugene Biganovsky. He investigated, and by letter dated 2 April 2004, provided me with responses from Ms Matthews, which included:

Q. Did the EOC approach witnesses identified by the complainant?
Her answer: NO

Q. Did the EOC approach Public Trustee Human Resources?
Again her answer was NO.

 Although the Commissioner of Equal Opportunity fobbed me off, under the EO Legislation I had the right to request a hearing in the District Court in front of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal. And armed with Precedents, representing myself, I took on Crown Law. And I must say, it wasn’t that much of a challenge!!

25 June 2004, Judge Rice, Equal Opportunity Tribunal, District Court of South Australia:

We find that Mr McKibbin raised with Mr O’Neill, on a number of occasions before August, 2002, the sexually suggestive conduct and behaviour of Mr H. We are unable to say on how many occasions Mr McKibbin did so, but we consider it to be a significant number.

In our view, in this instance Public Trustee impliedly authorised Mr H’s conduct (and here we are not referring to management conduct or style) by doing nothing about Mr McKibbin complaints or not doing sufficient about them. In our view, Public Trustee has vicariously authorised that conduct

My experience with the EOC was one of huge frustration, and one of total bewilderment:


As a result of the Ombudsman’s findings, I did attend a Conciliation Conference with the EOC Deputy Commissioner, and one of the explanations offered was ‘…in hindsight it could have been handled better….’

As an aside, we now have the findings of the subsequent Parliamentary Inquiry of 2009, that also contradict the findings of the EO Commissioner, Ms Linda Matthews.

This is one of the many rungs I had to climb during the past 10 years, and it was one of the greasy rungs. It proved, initially, to be a total bloody waste of time. The findings of subsequent investigations undeniably confirm that the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity GOT IT WRONG!!!!

And what a bizarre journey it was, as I found myself lodging complaints against the bodies I had lodged complaints with. Go figure!

I can but wonder how many hapless souls have been to the EOC over the years, only to be ‘moved along’.

So, after years of whistleblowing, numerous inept investigations by various state government bodies, a Court Case, a 2-year Internal Investigation, and then a Parliamentary Inquiry you might think I am a happy chappy. Well, this happy chappy is now unemployed, broke, and fighting every bloody week to keep his family from being evicted. And all those people that looked to me for help during those years???? They seem to have forgotten how to click REPLY in their Email program.

Would I do it again? YEP!!!! Cuz it was the right and only thing to do.


Anonymous said...

I too worked at Public Trustee whilst this was going on. My life was destroyed, my family affected, but no one wants to know. I figure my best option is to mount a case in the Supreme Court, say around March 2010. Put this one out Jill!

Anonymous said...

I worked there as well. We wanted to lodge complaints about the same people but we were frghtened. We watched them put you through the wringer and treat you like crap. Now that hes gone things are much better although bullying is still rife. People are still afraid to complain even after the parliamentary enquiry. We have also noticed that the parliamentary enquiry seems to have brushed aside some of those more serious issues you raised with the attorney generals department a few years ago. Seems that the more serious ones are just too hot to handle. Rob, we appreciated all you did and are sad to read about your financial difficulties in last weeks newspaper. We can only hope you get the recognition you deserve.

Anonymous said...

Your ability to stay positive and focused despite the rubbish heaped on you is amazing. Do some good for you and your family by trying to enjoy life. These people who did these things are no good. You need better people around you than the people who heaped this rubbish on you. People who do things to people, like what you had done to you, do not feel they have done anything wrong. Otherwise they would have admitted they did the wrong theing. Should some questions be asked about the persons who employ these people in the first place? Or how the system gets people to think it ok to do the things they did? Including being blind to how wrong it is to heap all they did on you? Should the people who choose these people at interviews be better judges of character than that? Why do they keep on employing people who go on to think they have a mandate to heap out the sort of rubbish you got? Clearly you are a stronger character than all of them put together. But their respect? Who would want their respect? Their own actions reveal who and what they are. Go forth Robbert, with confidence, you are the one wronged. They are the losers. Just based on how you handled all this shows the world you have great talent and integrity. Making you a better man than all of them put together.

Anonymous said...

Rob, I have read your blogs on numerous occasions and I am compelled to say that what you have experienced is not surprising. The bullying, nonsense, incredulous and outrageous perversion of justice and in general, incompetence is par for the course in this backwater of a city. All I can say is well done on standing up for what you believe. I hope that more good things come out of the unfortunate things that you have suffered.