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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
24/05/2012
Estimates
ATTORNEY-GENERAL PORTFOLIO
CrimTrac Agency

CrimTrac Agency

[20:07]

CHAIR: We will move now to CrimTrac. Welcome. If you do not have an opening statement, we will go to questions. Senator Humphries.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I notice from the last annual report of CrimTrac that there seems to be an extraordinarily high level of staff turnover within the organisation. You have an establishment of about 190 positions. You had 41 ongoing employees leave the organisation during 2010-11, which followed a similar exodus of 37 ongoing employees during 2009-10. Have I got the figures correct?

Mr D Smith : Yes, I think you have.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can you offer an explanation as to why? Do you accept, first of all, that that is a much higher than average turnover of staff?

Mr D Smith : It depends on how you measure it. We are basically an IT shop and there is in the IT business a naturally high rate of turnover

Senator HUMPHRIES: So people are being poached by better paying positions or more attractive positions in terms of remuneration and conditions than can be offered at CrimTrac. Is that the reason?

Mr D Smith : No, it is not the terms and conditions; it is just the nature of the employment. People are very mobile. If you were to compare us with similar entities—among agencies—I think you would find the numbers would be similar.

Senator HUMPHRIES: People would normally leave an organisation where they were having good levels of job satisfaction because something better was offered to them, not because they were drifters or something.

Mr Smith : Indeed, that is correct.

Senator HUMPHRIES: People aren't being offered better conditions or pay or some other attraction by moving to another position; they are not leaving because of dissatisfaction with what is going on in CrimTrac?

Mr Smith : No, it would be promotional opportunities and greater career development in things that they want to do.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I understand from an answer to a question on notice given to Senator Abetz in last year's supplementary estimates that there were a number of investigations into APS Code of Conduct breaches in 2010 and in the first part of the 2011-12 financial year. How many breaches are currently being investigated?

Mr Smith : I have to take that on notice. Senator, when you talk about numbers what would you specifically mean?

Senator HUMPHRIES: I mean how many people are being investigated within your organisation for APS Code of Conduct breaches as of now.

Mr Smith : There are a number of investigations but I would rather not go into the details on privacy matters.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If I asked you their names I would be probing into their privacy. I am not asking for their names. I am asking you to tell me how many there are. There cannot be a privacy implication unless you tell me there are 190—then there would be a privacy implication. If it is anything less than that, I think the committee has every right to know how many investigations for APS Code of Conduct breaches there are at the moment.

Mr Smith : There are two.

Senator HUMPHRIES: How many have there been since the beginning of last financial year?

Mr Smith : In addition to those two, three.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is five in the space of 18 months or so.

Mr Smith : Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Wouldn't you say that was quite a large number of APS Code of Conduct breaches in an organisation of that size? Mr Wilkins might like to comment on whether that would appear to be well above the average for investigations across the Public Service.

Mr Wilkins : I am not sure what the average would be, so I would prefer not to comment on that; I do not really know.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I think they are relatively rare investigations. Five in one organisation in 18 months sounds to me an exceptional number. You don't think that is untoward, Mr Smith?

Mr Smith : Any investigation is unfortunate. It is better if it does not occur. Having the investigations to establish the veracity et cetera of things that are alleged is a necessary part of managing any organisation.

Senator HUMPHRIES: How many informal or formal internal complaints regarding bullying or workplace harassment have occurred since the beginning of last financial year?

Mr Smith : With respect to bullying, four.

Senator HUMPHRIES: And workplace harassment?

Mr Smith : Four.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So eight altogether?

Mr Smith : No, it is the same allegation—harassment and bullying.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Do they relate to four different people or is there some doubling up, with more than one complaint against one person?

Mr Smith : There are four separate allegations with respect to four individuals.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is since the beginning of the 2010-11 financial year?

Mr Smith : Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Are there any informal or formal complaints made against you specifically, Mr Smith?

Mr Smith : I think that is a matter for the department or others to answer that question.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Is there an investigation underway at the moment by an officer of the Attorney-General's Department into a complaint about a staff member of CrimTrac, Mr Wilkins?

Mr Wilkins : I am sorry, what was the question, Senator?

Senator HUMPHRIES: Is there an investigation underway, being conducted by a member of the Attorney-General's Department, into the conduct of a member of the staff of CrimTrac?

Mr Wilkins : It is not by a member of the Attorney-General's Department, no, but it is an inquiry that we have auspiced, if I can use that term.

Senator HUMPHRIES: As a person who resides in this city and has lots of contact with people who work in the city I put to you that I have had a number of representations made to me about a culture of workplace harassment and bullying at the organisation that you lead and that it is this which accounts for the high turnover of staff which we are seeing and not the fact that workers are being poached or attracted to better paying jobs or jobs with better service conditions elsewhere.

Mr Smith : I would not draw that connection. With respect to the specific allegations to which you are referring, I do not tolerate workplace bullying and appropriate procedures are being put in place to investigate any of those allegations. In addition, steps are being put in place to ensure that any such culture, if it exists, is properly dealt with and removed from the organisation.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Does it exist or does it not exist?

Mr Smith : I do not believe there is a culture of workplace bullying. Specific allegations are being dealt with, but I would rather not go into the details because that would prejudice matters that are being investigated.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I am not asking you for details of any persons beyond that previous question I asked about your own position. I am not asking for any particular specificity. But can I ask you, Mr Wilkins, whether you have had any concerns expressed to you about incidents of bullying or workplace harassment going on within CrimTrac?

Mr Wilkins : Yes, I have.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Have you taken any specific steps to respond to those?

Mr Wilkins : Yes. I have obviously raised it with Mr Smith. There has been also, as I said, an investigation auspiced in relation to matters.

Senator HUMPHRIES: To matters or a matter?

Mr Wilkins : Two people.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So there is that one matter you mentioned previously—

Mr Wilkins : That is a separate matter.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Do you consider, in light of what led you to launch those investigations and your other knowledge of what goes on in CrimTrac, that there is a problem with workplace harassment and bullying within that organisation?

Mr Wilkins : I think there is obviously some issue. In fact, Mr Smith is one of the people who has raised concerns with me. This inquiry was in large part because of representations by Mr Smith saying that there was a problem that needed to be attended to. I do not really have a direct view into the organisation, so I will be quite interested to see what this inquiry comes up with.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Or inquiries.

Mr Wilkins : It is inquiries, but it is a single inquirer—let me put it that way.

Senator HUMPHRIES: To the extent that there may be revealed by this inquirer in the inquiries a problem with the culture of this organisation, you are reserving judgment until you see what the reports say?

Mr Wilkins : I think that is a reasonable thing to say, yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: What has been the total cost in the period since the beginning of the last financial year of complaint processing, including legal costs for CrimTrac?

Mr Smith : I would not have a total figure available to me at the moment.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can you take it on notice?

Mr Smith : Yes, I can.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Thank you very much. I also ask you to take on notice how long each investigation has gone on for, whether the complaints that generated those investigations—and I am referring here to, for example, the APS Code of Conduct complaints and the other ones of which I have spoken—were formal or informal and what their current status is. How many Comcare claims have been made since the beginning of the last financial year?

Mr Smith : A total number?

Senator HUMPHRIES: A total number.

Mr Smith : I would have to take that on notice and it may be divided into a range of different types of complaints because, obviously, things have different causal factors.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Indeed, I am sure they do. Would any of them have been for stress?

Mr Smith : Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Are we looking at one or two, or 20?

Mr Smith : No, we are talking in very low single digits. But I will take that on notice.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Similarly, if I could have the status of those claims. I am not asking for the results of any individual's claim. I also want to ask about pay rates for staff in the organisation. It says on page 84 of the annual report that:

During the reporting period, there was 1 employee whose salary plus performance bonus were $150,000 or more (2010: 1 employee). These employees did not have a role as senior executive and are therefore not disclosed as senior executive in Note 11A and Note 11B.

Can you indicate to us why a person would be in that category if they are not a senior executive of the organisation?

Mr Smith : That related to a position that was created prior to my arrival at CrimTrac. It was a special arrangement under the Public Service remuneration conditions where an EL 2-band person had been given duties at the equivalent of SES and was given a special remuneration package. That ceased to exist after I arrived.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So that person is no longer working at that level.

Mr Smith : No, not on those special remuneration conditions. She has reverted to the EL 2 level that she is substantially at.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Is she still in the organisation?

Mr Smith : She is still in the organisation.

Senator HUMPHRIES: The report indicates that as of 30 June there were three senior executives in receipt of remuneration of $187,957. It also indicates that one senior-executive level person was in receipt of remuneration of $238,000. What is the reason for that level of remuneration? Is that typical of positions at that level within the Public Service or is there a special nature of those positions which provides for a higher than usual level of remuneration?

Mr Smith : They are the upper quartile of the total band within the Public Service but they are within the acceptable range within the Public Service. Again, some of the remuneration levels reflect pre-existing conditions and also market forces with respect to the skills that the people bring to the position.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I understand that there were also bonuses awarded in the period between 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011 of $61,000 to each of two senior executives. I assume that would have to be two of the executives I referred to earlier.

Mr Smith : Yes, they are.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Again, why were those bonuses awarded?

Mr Smith : For the performance over the financial year and for the special skills that they brought to the position. But I would point out that since that time the terms and conditions within CrimTrac no longer have performance bonuses. I have removed those from the current agreements.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Who has removed those? You have?

Mr Smith : They were removed by the enterprise agreement negotiations that were completed at the end of 30 June 2011. There are no longer any bonus arrangements put in place.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I have other questions on this which I will put on notice. Thank you, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: Any other questions on CrimTrac? Mr Smith, thank you for your time this evening.