As previously stated, this move sets some challenges for WorkSafe Victoria. The Acting Executive Director following John Merritt’s departure, Stan Krpan, put in his notice shortly after Bowtell’s appointment was announce several months ago. It was rumoured that one of the labour law firms would snatch him up and although Steve Bell is establishing his own identity at Freehills, the firm lost a major brand advantage when Barry Sherriff left for Norton Rose.
There is no doubt that Bowtell fits the Labor Party needs of the Melbourne electorate but her departure must unsettle WorkSafe. It now needs to go through the recruitment process again just as the federal government’s OHS harmonisation program is hitting its second phase. WorkSafe’s HR people must be tossing up whether to choice another candidate with a strong social conscience but, barely hidden political ambitions, or to look again for an appointment from its own ranks.
Perhaps it needs to look to the small and sometimes dubious pool of Australian safety professionals. The profession itself is traditionally conservative but at least they may be ready to serve the principles of safety instead of self interest.
Perhaps, WorkSafe should look overseas. John Lacey, former President of UK’s Institute of Occupational Health & Safety, has been a regular visitor to Victoria for over a decade and maybe he could be induced to relocate, even for a 5 year contract. It would be tempting to look for candidates from outside the political circuits in Australia.