Senior ALP members 'informed of bullying'

FORMER employees of Tasmanian Labor Senator Helen Polley have said they told senior Labor Party members that she was bullying staff as far back as 2010.

And another former staff member, who began work with Senator Polley when she took up office in 2005 and became her office manager, said she notified the Australian Workers Union which spoke to Senator Polley about the issue as far back as late 2006.

Sancia West, then Sancia Colgrave, left Senator Polley's office in 2010 after working there for about a year.

Mrs West spoke to  The Examiner  yesterday after reading that Senator Polley had been investigated by Commonwealth workplace relations body Comcare this year for allegations of bullying and that three staff in the past 12 months had claims for compensation approved.

Mrs West became Senator Polley's office manager after the previous office manager, Geoff Lyons, left to run an ultimately successful 2010 election campaign for the federal seat of Bass.

She left to take up a job with the Greens because she felt she was being targeted by Senator Polley, and that soon after, a co-worker she was friendly with was dismissed so he would not share information with the Greens.

Senator Polley has denied both those claims. In a statement released late yesterday, Senator Polley confirmed that Comcare had investigated her office, but said: ``I absolutely reject claims that have been made against me.

``Recommendations outlined in Comcare's final report are being implemented to ensure that all work, health and safety information, policies, procedures and systems are of the highest standard.

``I am completely committed to fostering a healthy and productive workplace environment for my staff.''

Mrs West said she complained of Senator Polley's behaviour to the national branch of the Australian Labor Party and received a telephone call from a senior party figure, who undertook to look into the issue and get back to her in 48 hours.

He never contacted her again.

In a statement, federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said yesterday that he was aware of the Comcare investigation but did not respond to questions about whether he was aware of other allegations of bullying.

The national branch of the ALP did not respond to  The Examiner's  inquiries yesterday.

Mrs West said she was disappointed that the issue was not investigated then.

``The Labor Party was ultimately responsible for her and they were well aware of it,'' Mrs West said.

``Rather than dealing with the issue, they just closed ranks and protected her.''

In May 2012, another former staffer wrote a letter to former prime minister Julia Gillard's office, urging it to intervene. The staffer did not receive a reply.

In November last year, former speech writer Dennis Holzberger contacted then-special minister for state Gary Gray's office to complain of the senator's behaviour.

Mr Gray said yesterday he was not aware of the allegations.

Mr Holzberger is one of three staff whose Comcare claims have been approved.

 The Examiner  understands two more former staff members are now considering making a claim.

Tasmanian state ALP secretary John Dowling said he was not aware of allegations against Senator Polley, however, he said that would ordinarily be dealt with by the national branch or Comcare.

``I have not had a single phone call from anyone who said they had employment issues in this office, and I have been here since 2007,'' Mr Dowling said.

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