Former Labor MP wants an investigation into WorkSafe’s handling of bullying claims against Daniel Andrews’ office

Former Labor MP Kaushaliya Vaghela wants both Daniel Andrews and WorkSafe investigated over its handling of claims of bullying inside the Premier’s office.

Ms Vaghela — who has repeatedly claimed she was the target of widespread harassment from within the ALP since becoming an MP in 2018 — has insisted she was spoken to for less than five minutes as part of WorkSafe’s almost eight-month investigation.

She will ask Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass to launch a formal investigation saying her complaints have not been treated seriously.

And she has questioned whether “political meddling” contributed to a perceived failure to properly investigate her allegations.

“Given that the Ombudsman is already investigating the politicisation of the public service, I am writing to ask the Ombudsman to investigate the conduct of WorkSafe practice and performance, including but not exclusively, any improper political bias or pressure,” she said.

“I am also writing to ask the Ombudsman to investigate the performance of the Premier’s Private Office in dealing with my concerns.”

WorkSafe launched an investigation into the alleged harassment and handling of complaints in February following a referral by the state opposition.

It announced last week it had concluded the investigation and would take no further action.

Ms Vaghela said she never met any WorkSafe representative in person, and only ever had an informal chat with an investigator over the phone she said lasted less than five minutes.

“WorkSafe concluding a serious bullying investigation without even meeting the victim and only after a 4.52 minutes informal, preliminary chat over the phone must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” she said.

“The conduct of this investigation raises issues of political meddling in an organisation that has been stacked by the Premier.

“WorkSafe’s behaviour smacks of political action by what is supposed to be a non-political Government agency.

“Let’s not forget that the Premier, his personal friend and his office are the accused. I am the victim.”

As part of her complaint Ms Vaghela accused Vinyak Kolape and other members of the Premier’s Socialist Left faction, who were not employed by the government or ALP, of a campaign of intimidation and harassment.

She said it started after she defected to the party’s Right faction.

“I was not formally interviewed or enabled to respond to the findings of the WorkSafe investigation and information that WorkCover found to be adverse to my complaint,” she said.

“Witnesses, including my husband, staff and relevant MPs and others in the community were not interviewed by WorkSafe Investigators which I would have thought essential in any legitimate attempt to find the truth of the matter.

“The witnesses/informants referred to as the basis of the WorkSafe determination are all from the Premier’s Private Office and Department who were of course the subject of my complaint.”

“In politics, we come across cover-ups and deceptions all too regularly, but we tend to think that agencies like WorkSafe should be beyond reproach,” she said.

In a statement issued this week WorkSafe rejected claims its investigation was inadequate.

“Ms Vaghela was contacted by both a WorkSafe Senior Inspector and a member of the WorkSafe support team,” it said.

“During one such contact, Ms Vaghela advised that she did not wish to provide a statement as everything would be included in information she would supply.

“Ms Vaghela did not respond to two later attempts by the Senior Investigator to contact her by telephone.

“At no time prior to the commencement of WorkSafe’s investigation, nor at any time since providing materials, did Ms Vaghela make a formal complaint on her own behalf. This avenue remains open to her.”

Source: Herald Sun

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