The Tasmanian State Service has long had a poor record regarding discrimination, so the recent decision by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal that senior officials discriminated against workers on the basis of their political and industrial activities requires a response from Premier Rockliff.
The new Premier claims he wants to lead a government that is accountable and displays integrity. How he deals with his most senior officials will tell us all if these are just words or if he is serious.
Tribunal found that senior officials, including the Head of the State Service, treated certain workers differently because of their lawful political and industrial activities. It also found their actions constituted ‘promoting discrimination or prohibited conduct’ and by requiring managers to discriminate they were guilty of ‘causing, inducing or aiding’ the contravention of the Anti-Discrimination Act.
A key principle of the State Service Act 2000 is that ‘the State Service provides a workplace that is free from discrimination and recognises and utilises the diversity of the community it serves.’ Section 8 of the State Service Act 2000 states that ‘a Head of Agency must uphold, promote and comply with the State Service Principles’.
The State Service Code of Conduct states that:
- An employee, when acting in the course of State Service employment, must treat everyone with respect and without harassment, victimisation or discrimination.
- An employee, when acting in the course of State Service employment, must comply with all applicable Australian law.
- An employee, when acting in the course of State Service employment, must behave in a way that upholds the State Service Principles.
- An employee must at all times behave in a way that does not adversely affect the integrity and good reputation of the State Service.
The discrimination found by the Tribunal is a clear breach of the State Service Principles and breaches all four of the elements of the State Service Code of Conduct detailed above. Any worker who was found to have breached the Code in this way would be subject to an ED5 investigation and threatened with sanctions up to and including termination of employment.
This is a matter of integrity that requires the Premier to act.
A Poor Record Regarding Diversity
This act of discrimination doesn’t come out of the blue. For many years employee satisfaction surveys have indicated problems in the State Service regarding discrimination and diversity.
In the latest employee survey in 2020 only 65% of respondents agreed that all staff in their agency were treated fairly and with respect, only 63% agreed their agency had a positive attitude towards the LGBTIQ community, only 55% agreed that employees with disability were welcomed and supported in their agency, only 67% agreed that age was no barrier to success in their agency and only 65% agreed that Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders were welcomed and supported in their agency.
These percentages have barely moved over a number of surveys and does not reflect a State Service that ‘utilises the diversity of the community it serves.’ In the upcoming Agreement negotiations, the CPSU will be putting forward claims on behalf of groups including women, LGBTIQA, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with disability. This will be an opportunity for the Rockliff government to take real action to improve its workplace diversity and make it very clear that acts of discrimination will not be accepted.