Stuff-up aids whistleblower

by Chris Griffith
Published 20 Oct 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


The weak knees of Public Works and Housing Minister Ray Connor have inspired a Queensland whistleblower pursuing the government in the courts.

In 1991, public servant and senior army reservist Greg McMahon began grievance proceedings against the State Government after he was passed over for a Senior Executive Service position in the Department of Environment and Heritage.

He claimed he was discriminated against because of his army reserve and union activities.

As an army reservist, he was required to be away from work for between two and four weeks annually.

As a unionist, he had blown the whistle on an unlawful directive issued by the Queensland Water Resources Commission.

The directive attempted to limit army reservists to two weeks special leave each year. He alleged the Commission had breached the Commonwealth's Defence Re-establishment Act by imposing the two-week limit.

Mr McMahon disclosed this to his union - the Association of Professional Engineers and Scientists - and to the Federal Government. The Commission's instruction was then withdrawn.

However it is understood Mr McMahon has faced problems as a public servant with the Department of Natural Resources ever since.

Currently he is seeking a review of employment decisions about him under the state's Judicial Review Act.

The Act entitles him to seek written reasons justifying these decisions. It allows a judge to quash legally dubious decisions, and to place a prohibition order for natural justice.

However the government recently attempted to limit public servants using judicial review through controversial clause 116 in its Public Service Bill.

The Bill was passed, but the ill-fated clause 116 was jettisoned because Mr Connor missed the vote - thanks to his dickey knee.

This, together with a proposed amendment to the Bill by Premier Rob Borbidge, indicates Mr McMahon will be able to continue his action in the courts.

Last week the Federal Government announced its new $380 million "Army 21" plan, designed to allow army reservists more time away from work for army activities.

As Mr McMahon's case heads for court, former Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General John Grey called for legislation to protect reservists so they would not be forced to choose between the army and their job.

The ACTU representative on the National Defence Reserves Support Committee, Bill Thompson, said he had enlisted Mr McMahon's help as a unionist in preparing the committee's submission to Army 21.

Mr Thompson said current law did not offer reservists sufficient legal protection against discrimination - particularly reservists who worked in the public service.

Mr McMahon is currently president of his union, and the ACTU representative on the Queensland Defense Reserves Support Committee.

His case was among nine whistleblower cases investigated by the Senate Select Committee on Unresolved Whistleblower cases last year.

It recommended that the Queensland Attorney-General fund Mr McMahon so he could pursue his claims of discrimination.