December 14, 2005

I think we all understand what sells newspapers and its not necessarily ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. A ‘shock-horror’ headline always draws us to a story and maybe just maybe there could be some factual information within.

Unfortunately recent reporting by a lazy media saw sensationalism triumph with selective quotes about ‘lax culture’ used to tarnish all the members at Maroubra, and only because these words fell at the very start of the judgement. In context, and when read as a whole, that part of the judgement reflected the opinion of a single Departmental witness.

The facts are that none of us are immune to mistakes and reflecting back upon this unfair dismissal of a member, mistakes were made all round but the crucial decision by the IRC was that the punishment did not befit the crime.

Everyone has the right to a presumption of innocence prior to the results of any investigation, but unfortunately this member and those around him were all denied this right even before they had put their stories. What must be learned from this is that the throwing of mud in the hope that some will stick has sullied the reputations of all members at Maroubra and they deserve better than this, both now and in the future.

The Union and the Department have recognised the need to ‘review and modernise the disciplinary system’. For its part, the Union wants a fairer and more equitable disciplinary system that allows objective investigations to be done in the cool light of day and resists convicting members before an Inquiry is even underway. Our aim is to allow members a ‘fair go’ and to prevent a repeat of the type of collateral damage that has occurred at Maroubra and beyond

Hopefully, confidence in a fair and equitable disciplinary system will prevent future cowardly and anonymous letters containing spurious accusations from being forwarded to the media by ill-informed members adopting a vigilante mentality.   

 Craig Harris

State Secretary