This is a summary report of an investigation by the Integrity Commission Tasmania of the circumstances surrounding the serving of a prohibition notice on the Bob Brown Foundation, by the Work Health and Safety Regulator.
The Work Health and Safety Regulator is a statutory role, independent of the executive government. The Regulator works with WorkSafe Tasmania to oversight the state’s work health and safety.
In early 2020, the then Regulator, Mark Cocker, served a wide-ranging prohibition notice on a not- for-profit group protesting forestry activity, the Bob Brown Foundation. The notice required the Foundation to cease protest activity throughout Tasmania.
The nature of the notice, and public commentary and actions, led to perceptions that the Regulator had not acted with independence from the Government. Two complaints were made to the Commission, triggering an investigation. The investigation covered a number of high misconduct risk areas, including contact between a lobbyist, Government and statutory officers.
The Integrity Commission has found that, regardless of whether it was the best decision, there were legal and proper motives for the notice served on the Foundation. No Government member, or ministerial staffer, pressured the Regulator to serve the notice. However, by the time the notice was served, the Regulator had been the subject of sustained lobbying by a private citizen for nearly two years.
All public officers involved in this matter respected the roles of other public officers.
This report sets out the details of events, so that the public can see what occurred, and have confidence that the alleged misconduct has been appropriately investigated. It also serves as a lesson for public officers who may face similar circumstances in the future, to ensure that they conduct themselves with a similar level of respect for the independent roles of other public officers, and for their own office.
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