As members would be aware, the Government has announced several reviews in the wake of the allegations made by Brittany Higgins. One of the reviews – led by Stephanie Foster of PM&C – is into procedures and processes following a serious incident in the work place.

Upon being notified of this review the USU sought to discuss the review with Ms Foster and provide preliminary input on what must come out of her review. This input took the form of telephone conversation and written feedback. In summary we noted that:

  • MAPS are there to protect the Commonwealth, The Parliament, Parliamentarians are not there for staff. In the Sydney Morning Herald Jenna Price noted in the SMH, that MOPS staff are the Uber drivers of Parliament.
  • MAPS are not trusted and are out of touch with staff. Their fall-back position is that all guidance is ‘there already’ – you just need to trawl through their clunky website to find it.
  • MAPS are placing too much onus on managers to get educated on what they should do, without providing sufficient training and resources.
  • MAPS may have to report incidences back into the office where a problem may originate, which is not good enough.
  • MAPS will rightfully follow processes but those processes are not there to work for staff

USU Delegates pressed the Union’s position that;

  • Staff need an independent body to be established to handle HR matters. This body needs to have within it a lawyer unit where advice to staff is privileged and will not go further
  • When a serious incident / incident of concern occurs staff must have a point of contact that is their advocate, not in their current line of reporting and not under direction of MAPS
  • MAPS must become much more proactive in its communication and its training of both managers and staff – regardless of any future reform their culture must change
  • MPs and Senators must get better training and instruction on their responsibilities to their staff
  • It is critical that the larger review consider the terms and conditions of MoPS employment

Further we noted that change must happen through immediate improvements, and that substantive reform must come not too long down the track.

Finally, we acknowledged that there are exemplary offices operating but we need to get systems better for the times when there is a problem. We cannot be at the back of this whole process end up with only an extra helpline that does not provide absolute confidentiality.

Lines of communication remain open with Ms Foster and if members wish to add to our initial feedback/input please contact Alison Byrne, Brydan Toner, Bryce Wilson or your Union Organiser.

Your USU organisers and delegates, in collaboration with the WHS and ECG staffing groups, have also provided initial feedback to the Special Minister of State for the terms of reference for his separate review.

As this process progresses we will endeavour to keep members updated of any developments.

As always your Union Organisers Poni Ravula 0459 060 804, Mick Jones 0450 020 589 and USU MOPS Women’s Officer Melissa Pond 0408 620 741 are available for any queries you may have.