Welcome to the first edition of the new and improved AFPA Dispatch. This new monthly newsletter will provide you with an overview of the work the AFPA have been undertaking on behalf of our members.
While we have published a regular dispatch from our legal and industrial team for several years, we have listened to the feedback from members who have expressed their desire for a more holistic communications piece covering the efforts of each area within the AFPA head office. Each edition of Dispatch will include:
- A President and Media report explaining the work I have been doing as President to lobby the AFP and both the federal and ACT governments on behalf of our members, including a summary of media;
- A Legal and Industrial report highlighting recent trends in enquiries, updates on collective issues, fact sheets and a snapshot of the work of our industrial officers;
- A Membership Services report to raise awareness of ways you can make your AFPA membership work for you, whether that be through exclusive discounts to help you save money or through tailored welfare assistance; and
- An Enterprise Agreement report to keep you up-to-date with negotiations for the next Enterprise Agreement.
It has been a busy few months since the election of the new federal government. I am optimistic that, in the coming months, we will see significant progress on several of the priority requests included in our election platform, Operation Recognition.
During my meetings with politicians throughout the election campaign, I stressed the importance of four key issues: staffing, enterprise bargaining, workers’ compensation, and a fairer promotions system.
With respect to staffing levels, it is still too early to determine whether the AFP will receive the boost in personnel that we require. We will not know until treasurer Jim Chalmers’ delivers his first budget next year. However, the AFPA and AFP Senior Executive are on a unity ticket regarding the need for more staff. We will continue to press the issue with government until the budget has been handed down, and beyond.
The new Minister for the Public Service, Katy Gallagher, is currently working with the Australian Public Service Commission to create a new policy to govern enterprise bargaining within Commonwealth agencies. As you would be aware if you were in the AFP during bargaining for the current Enterprise Agreement, the old workplace bargaining policy was exceedingly restrictive to the point that it hamstrung meaningful negotiations.
Notably, the policy capped salary increases, banned enhancements to existing agreements (e.g. new allowances), and prohibited back-pay if negotiations ran longer than expected. Furthermore, pay-rises could only be funded by cutting existing terms and conditions. This created an environment in which it was near impossible to deliver an Enterprise Agreement beneficial to members. While neither the Minister nor the APSC have indicated when the new industrial framework will be released, we expect to see something in the coming months. I am optimistic that it will be an arrangement which will facilitate proper pay-rises and an improved EA.
Another of our priority requests related to presumptive workers’ compensation laws for mental health conditions. This reform would abolish the requirement for AFP employees who present with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental illnesses to prove that their injury developed as a result of their employment. Instead, the law would presume that the condition was caused by their work for the AFP, and the onus would be on the employer to prove otherwise. This system has been implemented in several jurisdictions, including Queensland, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. This would have the twofold effect of (1) ensuring Comcare claims are processed more quickly and efficiently to ensure the injured person can access help as soon as possible; and (2) relieve the injured person of the requirement to relive the often-extensive list of traumatic events which led to their injury, which in itself can exacerbate their condition.
I am aware that the government have finalised a model that ensures there is a consistent approach to how the Commonwealth, states and territories manage the mental health of first responders, including the AFP. Again, I expect we will see this model in the coming months, and consequently, we will see legislation introduced to provide AFP employees with this much-needed reform.
The current promotions system has been a consistent point of frustration for members for several years. Members report that processes for promotional rounds are often flawed. As an Association, it is difficult for us to help members in these instances, as there is currently no avenue to review these processes to ensure they were conducted fairly, despite the AFP Regulations stating that a review mechanism must exist. The AFP is unique in this respect – all other Commonwealth agencies sit under the oversight of the Merit Protection Commissioner, who has the authority to review promotions processes to ensure they are fair and meritorious. My team is currently putting together a brief for government to argue the case to bring the AFP under the remit of the Merit Protection Commissioner. I will keep you updated as this matter progresses.
Finally, I look forward to a constructive working relationship with the new minister responsible for the AFP, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. I met with him once prior to the election and again following the election. I am encouraged that he appears to have a deep knowledge of the challenges facing law enforcement and has the best interests of the AFP in mind. Equally, I am pleased that Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, has maintained her position as the Liberal spokesperson on matters relating to the AFP. She was an effective Minister and I look forward to working with her to hold the government to account, should any adverse decisions be handed down.
As always, if there is anything you wish to discuss with me, you can reach me at (02) 6285 1677 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.