Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas said today that Premier Rann now had no option but to investigate fully bullying claims against Attorney-General Michael Atkinson.
Last week’s confirmation by a staff member for Labor MP Frances Bedford that she had organised a Telstra bar on Ms Bedford’s phone to stop unwelcome calls from Mr Atkinson is an extraordinary revelation!
A copy of an email between two staff members for Ms Bedford (Tabitha Lean to Gary Lockwood) on 30 November includes the Hansard record of a question to Mr Atkinson on the issue. The attached email shows that Ms Lean confirms that she was the staff member referred to in the question who organised the Telstra bar on Mr Atkinson’s calls.
Bullying claims against Mr Atkinson were first raised about a month ago, when Mr Lockwood claimed that his employer Ms Bedford had been pressured by Mr Atkinson to sack him. For a month now, Ms Bedford has refused to say anything on this issue and the related claim that she felt so strongly about the issue she had put a Telstra bar on her phone to stop any further unwelcome calls from Mr Atkinson.
For a month also, Mr Rann and Mr Atkinson have also been dodging and weaving questions on the issue, refusing to provide direct answers to the questions. This is an unprecedented position in politics in South Australia where a Labor MP feels so concerned about the actions and behaviour of her own colleague, who is the senior law officer in the state, that she tries to stop any further calls from him to her!
One can only imagine if it involved the Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and a Liberal MP it would be front page news around the nation!
Mr Rann should not be allowed to hide from this issue any longer and he should speak urgently to Ms Bedford to find out why she has put a Telstra bar on Mr Atkinson’s calls.
If Mr Atkinson has been guilty of bullying Ms Bedford, then in my view it is a clear breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and it would be another reason why Mr Rann should sack Mr Atkinson.