AAP have reported this morning that the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has ordered QRIC to reinstate David Farquharson, the former Chief Steward at Albion Park who was sacked at the express direction of Qld Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross ‘the Boss’ Barnett in February last year due to concerns that the Boss held about Farquharson’s conduct, honesty and integrity.
Farquharson (below) – whose conduct during a 2016 stewards inquiry was referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission for investigation – has always maintained his innocence, saying that it was a personality clash and professional differences with Barnett that lead to his sacking rather than any misconduct on his own behalf.
It appears according to the AAP report that Deputy Industrial Relations Commissioner Adrian Bloomfield (below)- a one-time Kiwi accountant turned boss’s jockey for the Metal Trades Association prior to his appointment to the Commission way back in 1993 – agrees, because after many months of deliberation he has found that Farquharson was guilty of a simple mistake rather than misconduct and didn’t deserve the sacking he copped from Ross the Boss.
I’d love to give you the full details of what appears on the surface to be somewhat of a rather strange call by Bloomfield, but the decision is yet to be publicly released and my erstwhile sidekick has been advised by QIRC staff that only the parties have been given copies and the decision is not yet available for release to the media, which means of course that it’s highly likely that Farquharson has slipped a copy to a friendly journalist.
That is neither here nor there so far as the decision itself goes other than meaning some other racing writer got the scoop – they can have it; I wouldn’t trust Farquharson as far as I could throw him and don’t ever want to be his trusty – but it is certainly not an action that will endear him to former and now once again boss Ross (below), and is probably not the ideal way to kick off the rebuilding of the employment relationship.
Now when the decision is actually released I will do an in-depth analysis of it for the sportsfans, and it will be a bloody good one too because I’m the only racing writer kicking around who has spent a decade as a senior union official and thus the only one with the knowledge gained from running hundreds of employment cases able to give you a full description of the score. The timing of that is out of my hands, but I guess it might take a day or two given that the Commission staff have all just come back from holidays and will have a bit of catching up to do.
In the meantime though I want to say two things.
The first is that if I were representing QRIC in this matter I would have lodged an immediate and up front objection to Mr Bloomfield hearing the case in the first place, on the grounds of perception of a possible conflict of interest.
That perceived possible conflict derives from the fact that in addition to his role as Deputy-President of the Industrial Relations Commission Mr Bloomfield is also a paid member of the Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal, and was appointed to this role by, and reports to, the Minister for Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs, who at this point in history is ‘Pounds’ Stirling Hinchliffe although given the silence emanating from his office on all matters racing you wouldn’t know it.
The respondents in the Farquharson case are of course QRIC and the Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett, and they and he also report directly to the Minister for Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs, and that means things are getting a little bit too close for comfort for my liking.
I’m not for a second saying that Commissioner Bloomfield, who I’ve appeared before as a worker representative on a number of occasions, is not a straight up honest and impartial guy, which I can say with a degree of confidence borne of personal experience that is.
What I am saying though is that it is easy to see how some people could perceive that a man reporting to the same master to earn a quid that the respondent in a high profile case reports to – and in fact the same master that through the respondent the applicant reports to in his employment – might have a conflict of interest in dealing with the particular matter.
In these circumstances I reckon Bloomfield should have exercised his better judgement and stood aside from hearing the case. That’s just my opinion and nothing more.
The second thing I will say about the Faruharson case at this early juncture is that the decision to order reinstatement is a most unusual one given the circumstances and the sequence of events that led to the dismissal, and the things that have been said after.
It is patently clear that there has been a breakdown in the relationship of mutual trust and confidence in the relationship between Barnett and Farquharson. In fact it’s so obvious that even our old mate Blind Freddie can see it, and it’s no secret to anyone either, particularly not to Commissioner Bloomfield because this is what AAP reports that he said word for word in his judgement:
While Mr Barnett asserts that he no longer has trust and confidence in Mr Farquharson that is because he believed the latter was guilty of misconduct by being deliberately untruthful. In coming to that conclusion, however, he closed his mind to any other possible reason for Mr Farquharson’s behaviour.
Now that his decision has been reviewed and overturned by a Tribunal, I am confident that Mr Barnett will step back and accept that he might have made a mistake and perhaps he should have given Mr Farquharson the benefit of the doubt.
While my decision might be inconvenient and disappointing to Mr Barnett, I consider he is capable of re-establishing an appropriate and professional working relationship with Mr Farquharson.
Now that all sounds fine and dandy when you are sitting in a glass tower shaped like a bubble and writing it on paper, but when you translate it to real life it’s just an absolute fairy tale.
Think about it.
A top cop who was 6-4 to become Commissioner of Police before the leader took his running and put him over the fence and into the QRIC job forms a view that his employee the Chief Steward at the trots is a lying, deceptive c*nt who is two’s on to be corrupt, and having formed that view writes a report about his reasons for thinking this and kicks it upstairs to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
The rowboat loving boss of that outfit, old Alan MacSporran – who was once the school captain at the Bantam’s old alma mater Brisbane Boys Grammar – generally doesn’t like to blow his nose unless the Premier tells him to so finding the whole thing a bit red hot he kicks it back downstairs to Ross the Boss and says ‘here buddy, catch’.
Barnett is now left to make the decision on Farquharson’s conduct and his future role within the QRIC organisation and he does, by deciding the Chief Stipe doesn’t have one and he hands him a pink slip and his termination pay and demands that he give the front door back before he goes.
Farquharson gives the keys back and then walks down the road to see his mate at the newspaper Racin’ Nathan Excelby, and a couple of days later an article appears in which the sacked stipe describes his dismissal as a farce.
That’s enough in itself to destroy any hope of a future relationship with Barnett, who is employed on a contract that ensures he will be Ross the Boss at QRIC for a few years yet, but Farquharson puts the nail in the coffin of their mutual enmity by pointing the finger of blame for his booting directly at Barnett and all but calling him a low-down rotten ex-copper c*nt and five minute blow in Benny.
And Bloomfield issues a finding that each of the pair can restore sufficient trust and confidence in the other to work effectively together in the most important role in racing, that of ensuring the sport’s integrity?
He would have to be f*cking kidding wouldn’t he?
Until I get hold of a copy of the decision I’m not in a position to comment on the relative merits of the case or on the Commissioner’s decision that the dismissal was wrongful, but I can say that in nearly two decades of handling termination cases I have never seen a person reinstated to a job rather than cop a confidential settlement in circumstances where it is so bloody clear that the employment relationship with their boss is totally and utterly rooted.
It’s not as if we are talking about an employer like the ATO with tens of thousands of employees and the ability to transfer Farquharson to another office or team where he doesn’t have to report to Barnett either.
QRIC is a small and quite unique outfit who perform a role – an INTEGRITY ROLE FFS! – that requires every member of the team to work closely together and to have absolute trust in each other. We are not dealing with phone calls about when our tax refund is going to be paid here, we are dealing with phone taps and covert surveillance and undercover operations to detect criminals and weed out corruption and crime.
How the f*ck are we going to do that if the bloke running the show doesn’t trust one of his senior staff a single inch and doesn’t want him anywhere near his team? You don’t have to be Einstein to answer that one do you?
Jesus bloody Christ! We’ve come so far along the road in cleaning up the sport over the past 12 months thanks to the excellent work of the QRIC racing squad cops and then some bloody Industrial Commissioner who has sweet bugger all else to do since most of his outfit’s functions were transferred to Fair Work Australia comes up with a crazy decision like this that has the potential to screw the whole thing up.
No wonder they’re laughing at us down south.
This is just a bloody joke.