Saturday, 15 October 2016





The bullying culture with which the Abbott/Turnbull government has become synonymous is alive and well.

While Turnbull has been strutting the political stage this week, essentially claiming to have solved the issue of bullying on the nation's building and construction sites with the passing of the ABCC legislation, intimidation and head kicking within his own government remains rife.

The story of how a talented young publicity relations officer who until recently worked for the Australian Federal Police Association, the union for AFP officers, lost her job reveals a great deal about how the Prime Minister, and the nation's national security agencies, conduct their business.

The incident of the officer’s sacking began with an expose by The New Daily on the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's refusal to live in the official dwellings, either at Kirribilli or at The Lodge in Canberra.

He is the first Prime Minister in Australian history to eschew the comfort and security of the official dwellings for his own home.

Perhaps it is understandable.

His luxurious $50 million Point Piper mansion overlooking Sydney Harbour is worth more than the combined homes of all Australia's Prime Minister's since World War Two. As well, within the walls of his own home he is far freer to go about his own business than he might be in the official dwellings, staffed as they are by government employees and government security specialists.

But security experts contacted The New Daily precisely because the safety of the Prime Minister himself and his beloved family, including his wife Lucy and his adored grandson Jack, could not be guaranteed while ever he insists on living at Point Piper.

Equally, the safety of the Australian Federal Police officers assigned to protect him, his family and his staff cannot be guaranteed.

Unlike the official dwellings, Malcolm Turnbull's Point Piper home is vulnerable from land, air and sea.

Terrorists choose the location for their attacks very strategically, specifically aiming to achieve maximum propaganda impact; think Martin Place, Brussels Airport, the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the London Underground.

An attack on the Australian Prime Minister's home would achieve maximum news coverage not just in his own country but around the world.

This fact alone makes the Prime Minister's home the number one terror target in the country.

And security experts warn that located as it is in a residential area it simply cannot be secured in the same way as the official dwellings. An explosive-laden truck could be easily pulled up at the front entrance and detonated, drones could easily be flown into the property from surrounding apartment blocks, and equally, terrorists could easily approach the property from the water and fire artillery into the property.

Not one person has disputed the accuracy of The New Daily's story.

The AFP officers themselves were understood to be pleased with the story, and that changes to security at the Prime Minister's home were made immediately as a result.

But essential to the success of the story was the AFP Association (AFPA), which is the union represents the officers themselves.

President of the AFPA Angela Smith, the first woman to hold the position, is quoted in the story as saying that maintaining two official residences in both Canberra and Sydney, was not financially responsible. The residences are symbolic of the stability of Australian governance and have to be maintained whether or not anyone is living in them.

“Funding security on two prime ministerial residences is an indulgence that taxpayers cannot afford,” she said. “Security at these locations is a significant financial burden on the taxpayer. The AFPA urges the Prime Minister to rethink his decision to stay at his personal residence in Point Piper over the official residence of Kirribilli.”  

Following normal journalistic practice, these comments were transmitted to TND via the Association's publicity officer.

She drafted up the comments and they were signed off on by her boss Angela Smith, who was overseas at the time.

While the officers themselves were reportedly delighted by TND's story, from the moment the story was published Ms Angelin was "sent to Coventry", hauled over the coals by her boss for dealing with a journalist, and sacked within weeks. Pointing out that the President signed off on the comments and that as a union they do not work for the government but for their members got her nowhere.

As she had only worked for the AFP Association for five months, the officer could not sue for unfair dismissal and was not entitled to a payout. To dismiss her, the AFP Association relied a section of her contract which meant they do not have to provide any reason.

While none of the players in the chain of command, including the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Attorney General George Brandis, the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin or Angela Smith, a former AFP constable, are ever likely to comment, the standard line being that they do not comment on security matters, it would appear that the head kicking went straight down the line.  

That is from the Prime Minister via the Attorney General to the Australian Federal Police Commissioner to the AFP Association President; straight down to the only one vulnerable in the chain, the press secretary who was just doing her job, and doing it well.

All over a story which was factually correct and clearly in the public interest.

The Australian Federal Police were embarrassed this year by reports of widespread sexual discrimination and an endemic culture of bullying.

Andrew Colvin has been with the association since 1990, progressively rising to the top. It behoves him to demonstrate that bullying is no longer a part of AFP culture.

As the Prime Minister tucks into roast turkey inside his mansion this Christmas, a former public relations officer faces the festive season without so much as a job, simply for doing her job.

Enjoy. Thugs.

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