Australian Capital Territory Policing called to federal police union office in Griffith over internal row

December 9, 2015 – 8:36PM

Megan Gorrey

Reporter at The Canberra Times

Flag of the Australian Capital Territory

ACT Policing officers attend a disturbance at the Australian Federal Police Association offices in Griffith.

ACT Policing officers attend a disturbance at the Australian Federal Police Association offices in Griffith. Photo: Rohan Thomson

ACT Policing was called to the Australian Federal Police Association offices in Canberra as internal ructions over the organisation’s leadership reached boiling point on Wednesday.

Tensions have escalated since Senior Constable Angela Smith was appointed national president of the federal police union last month.

She was voted into the top job after former national president Jon Hunt-Sharman resigned in November in the midst of a federal court case over election processes and bitter in-fighting between board members.

Police were called to intervene in the union dispute at the Murray Crescent office.

Police were called to intervene in the union dispute at the Murray Crescent office. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The association’s chief executive Dennis Gellatly said the stand-off began when Ms Smith attempted to enter the union’s Griffith offices with Police Federation of Australia chief executive Mark Burgess.

Mr Gellatly, who was in Brisbane as the union prepared for looming enterprise agreement negotiations, understood the pair told staff they wanted to gain access to the office that had belonged to Mr Hunt-Sharman.

He argued Ms Smith’s leadership wasn’t valid as she was elected at a meeting that did not abide by council rules and without adequate consultation with national council members.

Mr Gellatly said association employees tried to block the pair from the office and phoned police after they protested and refused to leave.

Officers from ACT Policing, which is covered by the federal police union, arrived at the Murray Crescent building about midday and spoke to the pair and AFPA staff.

One female association staff member, who was clearly shaken, left the building in tears shortly before 1pm.

Senior Constable Smith said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on the incident when contacted by Fairfax Media.

Mr Gellatly said on Wednesday afternoon he hadn’t ruled out legal action as a way of managing the internal dispute.

“I don’t want to act rashly, I’ll need to consider what action is lawful and what’s in the best interests of our members,” he said.

“Obviously the enterprise agreement bargain on the table at the moment is very high in the priorities of members; they want us to achieve good results for them.”

At the time she was elected, Ms Smith played down concerns that were raised about the appointment process and said it was required under the association’s own rules, which complied with federal fair work laws.

Police union members were worried a small group of executives would install a new president without consultation.

“As police and as a professional association we must comply with the rules and the Fair Work Act, no matter how unreasonable the pressure, using the media, that’s placed on the national executive,” Ms Smith said.

“Neither I, nor the national executive are going to bend the rules to satisfy a few people who have ulterior motives.”

Ms Smith said Mr Hunt-Sharman’s resignation was not linked to the federal court case, which is expected to come before court next week.

It will look at elections for the association’s branch zone co-ordinator and workplace delegates, which were suspended in July after errors were found in the roll of voters and the number of vacancies.

The Australian Electoral Commission was notified after some association members did not receive the correct ballot papers and the elections were suspended.

It comes soon after the AFPA abandoned a controversial push from some board members to take in Australian Border Force officers, a move members claimed was made without consultation.

Mr Gellatly said the association’s decision to pursue 3000 to 4000 Border Force staff was halted after “strong opposition” from members.

Source : Canberra Times

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