Disturbing claims of bullying and intimidation by Labor MP Tony Piccolo against a young trainee have been referred by Treasurer Rob Lucas to the Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment over concerns Mr Piccolo may have broken the law by ‘forcing’ his resignation.
Mr Piccolo has been publicly accused by his former trainee Bradley Johnson, 22, of months of escalating harassment and ‘abuse’, both verbally and via email, culminating in his ‘forced’ resignation in 2018 one month before his traineeship was due to be completed.
“These claims are disturbing, and I have referred the claims to the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment to provide me with advice about options to have them investigated,” said Treasurer Lucas.
“I am particularly concerned about the claims that Mr Johnson was forced to resign one month before he was able to complete his government-funded traineeship under the threat of never getting a ‘good reference’ from Mr Piccolo for future jobs.
“This alleged forced resignation meant Mr Johnson was unable to receive his Certificate 3 in Business qualification.
“It is interesting to note, back in June, an ABC TV news report in relation to formal staff grievances lodged within the offices of Labor and crossbench MPs, noted there had been 4 staff complaints made in Mr Piccolo’s Gawler-based electorate office of Light.
“At the time, Mr Piccolo reportedly told the ABC the grievances all related to ‘interpersonal relationship matters between staff’. ‘Three of the complaints were about another staff member. The fourth, I understand, does not relate directly to me either’.
“In particular, I have asked the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment whether there was an offence under Section 53 of the Training and Skills Development Act 2008 which applied at the time and how that should be investigated
Section 53 – Offence to exert undue influence etc in relation to training contracts
(2) A person must not exert undue influence or pressure on, or use unfair tactics against, a party to a training contract in relation to –
(d) the termination or suspension, or purported termination or suspension, of the contract.
Maximum penalty: $5,000
“This clause makes it clear it is an offence under the Act to ‘pressure’ someone into the termination of a training contract such as a traineeship,” said Mr Lucas.
The SA Labor Party has now reportedly launched its own ‘independent review’ into the claims.
“However, these complaints can’t be property dealt with by a cosy little internal review conducted by Labor-appointed investigators into a long-serving Labor MP.”
“Pressure is now on Peter Malinauskas to respond to claims of a toxic culture within the Labor Party. These claims against Mr Piccolo follow concerns expressed by staffers against other Labor MPs, Jayne Stinson and Katrine Hildyard.”