Public servants ranked female workers on ‘hotties list’

Bridget McKenzie said the Nationals continue to support divestiture powers. Photo: AAP

Bridget McKenzie said the Nationals continue to support divestiture powers. Photo: AAP Photo: AAP

Junior public servants allegedly created a “hotties list” ranking their female co-workers, a Senate estimates committee has heard.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts received an allegation male members of the 36-strong graduate cohort had assembled the list earlier this year.

The rumour of the list began circulating on March 30, the department received further advice on it over the next few months and on May 19 it received a written complaint.

Asked about the matter by Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie, department secretary Jim Betts called it a “degrading list of women which assessed them by their so-called ‘hotness’, which is a disgusting phrase”.

“We were unable to substantiate the existence of such a list – which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it just means that we were unable to substantiate it,” he told the committee.

No one has been fired over the list but Betts said the workplace had talked to graduates about their expectations and requirements, making necessary adjustments to ensure their safety was prioritised.

The new intake were brought on board in February and had received training on the Australian Public Service value system before a session on respect at work in April.

The cohort was also two-thirds male and one-third female, which Betts condemned.

“We will never have a future graduate program where the gender balance is two-third male and one-third female,” he said.

“It is unacceptable within a department which is 60 per cent female overall and among senior executive services [are] 52 per cent female.

“We’ve learnt some lessons from this and one of those is around having gender balance at all levels and in all cohorts.”

The committee also heard another allegation of an employee who was followed in a “harassing or intimidatory matter” after leaving work alongside other claims of disrespectful behaviour, gender bias, sexist behaviour and disrespectful language.

When complaints are substantiated, the department undertakes a preliminary inquiry process to assess whether the allegations breach the code of conduct and can sometimes bring in an external organisation to ensure there is transparency and necessary distance in any investigations.

They could also sweep the IT systems to detect evidence of complaints.

From there, employees are given opportunities to work from home and are provided with counselling support.

Asked whether the number of harassment and bullying complaints had changed, Betts said: “It will be going up from a small base to another small number but it’s not insignificant, because it never is.”

The department will disclose more information about harassment and bullying complaints as part of a whole-of-government process on November 29.


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