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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13084

Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (10:25): I rise to speak on the report, Workplace bullying: we just want it to stop. The coalition members—that is, the member for McPherson, the member for Aston and myself—broadly support many of the recommendations within the report. We reject the notion, however, that bullying in the workplace is normal and that we can afford to ignore the issue. We support from the outset the need for the common definition that was outlined in one of the earliest recommendations in the report.

We have chosen to put in a dissenting report, because there were a small number of recommendations that we felt we were unable to endorse. I would like to particularly thank the government members for their cooperation in working their way through what has been a very challenging inquiry indeed. We had 319 submissions, and many of those came from people who have identified themselves as victims of workplace bullying. Of course, we had no way of ascertaining the veracity of those claims, but certainly the human tragedy of people dealing with multiple issues in their life that they believe originated in the workplace is not to be understated. I particularly thank them upfront for revealing that part of themselves to the committee, because I think it gave a very human perspective to what it was we were trying to talk about.

Interestingly, during the inquiry bullying was often compared to having a guard missing from a machine. But it is much more complex than that, because if a guard is missing from a machine it is quite obvious that the guard is missing. It is a much harder thing to actually identify bullying in the workplace when it may occur behind closed doors or between two individuals who have different thresholds to things that may be said. So it is a very difficult issue for us all to deal with.

The coalition members, as I said, supported most of the recommendations, but we were concerned that we not endorse another raft of compliance and regulation on employers who are already struggling in this area and may already be exemplary employers. If we then place regulatory requirements upon them when they are in fact already ticking all the boxes, that would be a concern. Those are some of the reasons we have pulled back in a couple of areas.

As I said, there were 319 submissions. It occurred to us that it was unlikely we would see businesses and individuals coming forward if they were working in a good, positive environment. So we could not ascertain the level at which workplace bullying is operating in Australian workplaces, but certainly there was enough evidence to say that there is an issue out there. In particular, we were opposed to recommendation 5, calling for the establishment of regulations to force employers to meet a code of practice that is still under negotiation. We believe that code should first be established and have a chance to work before we overstep the mark in this area. We are also opposed to recommendation 23, which is calling for the right of recourse. We are unconvinced that this would be a positive move because, as the name of the report says, we just want it to stop. It seems to me that, when we come to the point of recourse, the relationship with an employer has completely broken down and it is not about just getting it to stop; it is about trying to get some retrospective justice.

In that sense, we felt that broadening the right of recourse is likely to lead to more antagonism in the workplace. The thing that we do not want to see is a division within workplaces, to see that being a source of confrontation. We need to sell the positive message about what a better place it is to employ people—why it is better for the workers and for the employers to have a workplace which is cooperative and considerate of people's feelings.

I too would particularly like to thank the secretariat for the very hard work that they put in through this inquiry. I would like to thank all those who contributed and I would like to thank the government members for their cooperation.

The SPEAKER: Does the member for Kingston wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a later occasion?