Polley chaired bullying inquiry

A TASMANIAN senator whose office was investigated in March after staff complained they had been bullied chaired a Senate inquiry into the bullying of Parliament staff last year.

The office of Launceston-based Labor Senator Helen Polley was investigated by Commonwealth workplace relations body Comcare in March after three staff had compensation claims for bullying or harassment approved.

The first claim was filed by Dennis Holzberger in October, a month before the committee chaired by Senator Polley released a report highlighting the problems of bullying in the public service.

The Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee report concluded: ``The long-term prevalence of bullying and/or harassment points to poor leadership.''

It said that parliamentary service was demanding and required long hours, and that it was ``unacceptable that staff working in this environment, indeed in any work environment, have also experienced bullying and/or harassment''.

The report detailed a number of bullying practices, such as deliberately isolating a member of staff and leaving them out of correspondence, nit-picking performance and never acknowledging a well-completed task, micro-managing and belittling staff - all complaints former staff have made of Senator Polley's conduct.

A report of the Comcare investigation into Senator Polley's office, obtained by The Examiner , found an ``unhealthy workplace culture'' that had an ``adverse impact on the morale, health and well-being (of some staff)''.

Senator Polley has said she is working with Comcare to comply with its recommendations but rejected specific bullying allegations put to her by The Examiner .

Mr Holzberger said momentum was building among former staffers for a class action.

Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson - who also happened to be on the parliamentary bullying inquiry - wrote to senators and MHRs last month to remind them of their workplace health and safety obligations.

He would not comment on the allegations relating to Senator Polley.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would not say whether he would take disciplinary action against Senator Polley, after The Examiner  revealed this week that allegations of bullying at her office dated back to 2006.

Mr Shorten did not comment on suggestions from former staff that the Labor Party had previously ignored allegations of bullying by Senator Polley, saying only that the matter was now being investigated by Comcare.

Mr Ronaldson would not comment on the particular case, but said all senators and members of Parliament would be subject to new rules coming into effect on January 1 that outlawed the employment of family members.

The ban was announced last month and will prevent the employment of a spouse, partner, parent, child, step-child or son or daughter-in-law of a politician being employed in their office.

Senator Polley's daughter and niece work at her office.

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