Friday, August 31, 2012

O'Farrell Minister accused of verbal assault on staff #NSWpol

Anthony Roberts (MInister of Fair Trading) and Tim McKIbbin, CEO of the <a href=

Under pressure ... Anthony Roberts has been accused. Photo: Supplied

A NSW cabinet minister, Anthony Roberts, and his chief of staff, Tim James, have been accused of ''verbally assaulting'' a female staff member for more than two days, resulting in her suffering ''severe psychological trauma''.

The incident, which allegedly occurred last month, has led to the woman's resignation and a threat to sue the state of NSW after details were inadvertently made public.

The woman, whom the Herald has agreed not to name at her request, reported in June that she ''developed severe anxiety disorder when she was verbally assaulted for over 48 hours by her employer and chief of staff''.

She was certified by a doctor as ''totally unfit for work'' for six weeks after the incident, according to a workplace injury report.


The workers compensation manager, Employers Mutual, prepared an injury management plan outlining her claims and subsequent medical treatment.

But the plan was mistakenly attached to an email from a parliamentary human resources executive advertising a catering position to hundreds of staff.

It is understood that representatives of Parliament, which did not investigate the matter, have since apologised to the woman. But at a meeting this week, she is believed to have informed them she is preparing a claim against the state, alleging a breach of confidence over the email error.

The incident with Mr Roberts, who is the Minister for Fair Trading, and Mr James followed the woman being considered by the Liberal Party for the local government elections next week.

She told the Herald: ''At this stage I have no comment to make. And I would like you to respect my privacy.''

Responding to the claims of verbal assault, Mr Roberts said the document outlining the claim had ''been withdrawn and is of no factual nor legal status. The statements within it cannot be relied upon''.

He added that ''any allegations made in reliance upon that document would be unlikely to be true and may be defamatory''. Mr James declined to comment.

But the woman's lawyer, Peter Breen, said: ''Nothing has been resolved, except the question of whether it's a claim of defamation or a claim of a breach of confidence. And it has been decided that it's a breach of confidence claim against the state of NSW.''

The allegations increase the pressure on Mr Roberts, who was recently embarrassed by revelations that he engaged in factional business during a parliamentary sitting week.

Mr Roberts was revealed to have emailed colleagues urging them to support a controversial push by the Liberal Party's hard right faction, of which he is a member, for changes to the way the party preselects candidates.

The disclosure led the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, to declare that ''wannabe Joe Tripodis have no future in my team'', in reference to the former Labor Party powerbroker.

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