Workplace bullying inquiry followed the script, mostly

The Melbourne public hearing in support of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying has concluded after over an hour of personal impact statements that were confronting, saddening but, overall, defiant.

The hearing began more sedately and predictable. The employers’ association, ACCI, says that workplace bullying is a broad social issue that needs broad social control measure. In rough translation, “it’s not our problem”. The employers also see everything in terms of industrial relations so prevention of harm rarely features in recommendations.

The ACTU stressed that workplace bullying IS a workplace issue and therefore should be principally “managed” under occupational health and safety laws. They also say that health and safety representatives (HSR) are crucial to controlling bullying but were trapped into admitting that they had not introduced specific workplace bullying information, that they recommended, in the HSR training they provide.

The Law Institute of Victoria representative, Moira Rayner, was the stand-out performer. Her background as an Equal Opportunity Commissioner twenty years ago provided her with an authority that was only enhanced when she discussed her personal experience of being accused of bullying.

Eric Windholz, ex-WorkSafe Victoria executive, had potential as he drew from the research he has undertaken with Monash University but conversation bogged down as the role of workers’ compensation premiums emerged.

The weakest performances so far have come from OHS and workplace psychology consultants. To some extent these are front-line troops in the fight against workplace bullying but it is clear that they are trying their best without regulatory and organisational reform. The unfamiliarity with Parliamentary public hearings was revealed by one speaker who started off with thanks to her colleagues which sounded like an advertisement to most.

A major deficiency in this public hearing, and it is believed, the Sydney hearing on 10 July 2012, was the absence of the speakers’ submissions.  The delay in making them available is understandable but, nevertheless, observers were at a distinct disadvantage.

Over the next few days SafetyAtWorkBlog will be publishing a number of bullying-related articles on

  • definitions,
  • workplace mental health,
  • opportunism; and
  • comfortable chairs.

Well, not the last point but the chairs in Victoria’s Parliament House were comfy.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

5 thoughts on “Workplace bullying inquiry followed the script, mostly”

  1. Do you believe that this problem stems because kids were taught that bullying was ok in school so then the bully in the work place? Plus where do you draw the line of pushing the employees to be motivated to produce more?

  2. Like most polititians they are hardly in the ‘house’ so the chairs should be like new! Gee, the ACCI and the ACTU not agreeing, that’s something new – not! Bullying is certainly a broad social issue and is slowly being addressed through the education sector, you only need to hear how the kids of today deal with it to see they are heading in the right direction, unfortunately it will never be stamped out while the employer and the employees acept it as the ‘norm’. At least with strong legislation it gives you something to fall back on to address these issues.

    1. Malcolm, I have a real problem with those who compare workpalce bullying and schoolyard bullying. The public hearing heard from several schoolyard bullying experts who seem to impose the schoolyard motivations and behaviours into the workplce. I think this is shortsighted and impedes the gathering of evidence of workpalce bulying, of which everyone agreed at the hearing that there was next to nothing.

      There was lots of discussion about leadership and culture but almost always anecdotal.

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