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Urination claim prompts police probe of Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority

Adam Poulsen and Liv CasbenCountryman
Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt ordered an independent review of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority after allegations of workplace bullying and harassment emerged during a Senate hearing.
Camera IconFederal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt ordered an independent review of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority after allegations of workplace bullying and harassment emerged during a Senate hearing. Credit: TheWest

Police have launched a probe into the Federal Government’s agricultural and veterinary chemical regulator amid allegations of workplace bullying, including that a senior public servant urinated on his colleagues at a Christmas party.

The bizarre allegation surfaced during a Senate hearing in November, prompting an independent review of workplace culture at the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

At the hearing, APVMA chief executive Lisa Croft said she had been made aware of an incident where “a male senior staff member allegedly urinated on other staff members”.

She denied suggestions the incident occurred at a 2021 staff Christmas party, describing it as a “private urination matter” that happened in a “private capacity” outside of work.

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Ms Croft told the hearing no official complaint was made and the staff member in question had since resigned.

It was not revealed what prompted the incident, nor how many co-workers the man was accused of urinating on.

The subsequent review of the APVMA, ordered by Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt, revealed the organisation had fired multiple senior staff after receiving complaints of harassment and bullying.

An interim report of the review was on February 8 handed down to Mr Watt, who immediately referred it to police and the Australian Public Service commissioner.

“This review followed serious allegations, which were raised at Senate estimates, concerning the behaviour of a staff member of the APVMA,” Mr Watt said in a statement.

“The review ... contains additional serious allegations of misconduct concerning the APVMA, including potential breaches of the public service code of conduct and other potential breaches of the law.”

Mr Watt said he also met the chair of the APVMA board, Dr Carmel Hillyard, to “discuss additional matters” and ensure staff were supported.

“As these matters are now the subject of investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment,” he said.

The APVMA, which is the Australian government regulator of agricultural and veterinary chemical products, has its headquarters at Armidale in NSW.

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said he was aware of potentially three complaints from female staff members about the alleged incident.
Camera IconSenator Peter Whish-Wilson said he was aware of potentially three complaints from female staff members about the alleged incident. Credit: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who first raised the matter in Senate estimates, said he had spoken with Mr Watt and supported the matter being referred to authorities.

He told the hearing in November he was aware of potentially three complaints from female staff members about the alleged incident.

“The Greens will obviously be watching how this progresses very closely,” Mr Whish-Wilson told the AAP.

A survey of APVMA staff last year found 11 per cent had witnessed or experienced harassment and 13 per cent had reported discrimination in the workplace.

A final review is not due until the end of March.

The APVMA has been contacted for comment.

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