Senator Steve Fielding is the head of the Family First Party, the smallest political party in Australia’s Parliament at the moment. Fielding is one of the handful of senators who hold the balance of power in the parliament and therefore has more political influence than a party of the size of Family First usually has.
On 19 October 2009, as a result of evidence given at a Senate inquiry by a representative of Australia Post, Senator Fielding said, in a media statement:
“There are serious allegations staff have been forced back to work simply to sit in a room to watch television so managers can get their bonus for having lower lost injury time figures,” Senator Fielding said. “This is outrageous and puts the health of workers at risk because of some greedy managers.
“No wonder Australia Post won an award last month for its rehabilitation of injured workers if it’s fudging the numbers. There’s an obvious conflict of interest between InjuryNET, which looks after the doctors that Australia Post sends its workers too, and Australia Post itself.
“Dr David Milecki, who is a consultant to Australia Post’s return-to-work program, also runs InjuryNET.
“Australia Post even admitted that this contract did not go through an independent process – there was not even a tender process.
“We need a senate inquiry urgently to make sure Australia Post employees are being looked after and that they’re aren’t being taken advantage of by dodgy managers who are more interested in their bonuses.”
SafetyAtWorkBlog contacted Australia Post to gauge some reaction. A spokesperson says that Australia Post will be cooperating fully with any Senate inquiry.
Every country has its fair share of eccentric politicians. The current feeling is that Steve Fielding is Australia’s. But regardless of character or competence, the Senator has authority and a responsibility to investigate the concerns listed above.
This is a developing story but one that may relate a little to issues raised in the recent SafetyAtWorkBlog about awards nights.