Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Senate estimates hearing accidentally exposed the pro-government bias of Registered Organisation Commission's senior management

The Mandarin, 1 December 2017:

Two federal statutory officials have admitted to making comments that Labor has seized on as raising doubts about their agency's independence.

The comments were made during a break in an Employment portfolio estimates hearing this morning exploring the Australian Federal Police raid on a union headquarters and involvement of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash's office.

One of the participants, Registered Organisation Commission's executive director Chris Enright (pictured), strongly hit back at claims he is not independent, or has questionable ethics through his 40 years of service in government and police roles.

Media present in an estimates hearing overheard the comments, including Buzzfeed reporter Alice Workman, who tweeted part of the exchange:

Alice Workman
Labor has called for the clerk so meeting resume for a few seconds but is suspended again. This is going to go on for a while. Cash seems very cheery as she uses break to leave the room, greeting people#estimates

Alice Workman
Overheard as committee on break: ROC and FWO officials joking that "this has been a very productive half hour" and "they could do this all day" as Labor's "getting pretty desperate" #estimates

That tweet enraged Labor senators when the hearing resumed. The Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James was not involved in the exchange. However, two officials owned up the exchange, Registered Organisations Commissioner Mark Bielecki and Chris Enright, ROC's executive director.

"How can you ever be regarded as independent [public servants] after the comments you just made?" asked a visibly angered Senator Doug Cameron.

The officials could not respond as Senator Ian Macdonald interjected, claiming the question was bullying the officials.

The chair Senator Linda Reynolds reminded officials that audio-visual Hansard rules do not apply during breaks and journalists may report anything they hear or observe in the building.

Cash directed officials to cover any documents they had brought from sight of journalists or cameras.

Alice Workman
To clarify: I did not listen in to any private convo. I was in room with my media pass and heard what everyone else around me did. 

The full comments cannot be verified without an investigation as Hansard rules do not permit the release of committee records when the hearing is not in session....

Also on Twitter was this plaintive tweet from the journalist mentioned above:
And this from the twitterverse:

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