Mike Pezzullo Home Affairs Paladin scandal Peter Dutton
Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Update: after publication, Home Affairs got in touch with us with some further clarification. We have added it in bold below.

Our recent yarn on Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo’s leadership philosophy prompted readers to contact us with further information on what goes on inside his sprawling department. Among the peculiar practices we were told go on there:

  • In addition to the standard public service “pink slip” process for security breaches (if, say, you leave a confidential file on your desk overnight, security will take it and replace it with a pink piece of paper on your desk with the details of your breach on it, and you have to take the slip and collect the file again); there is a “white slip” process whereby anyone who breaches Home Affairs “integrity policy” receives a white piece of paper. Except … the white slip is blank so recipients don’t know what they’ve done …
  • There’s a clothing policy in place above the usual public service requirement that staff dress appropriately and professionally for the workplace (obviously those working at airports or in the AFP have uniforms; this is about head office staff): women, or, for that matter, anyone so minded, are not permitted to wear heels, because that might slow them down in the event of an emergency evacuation, and bright colours and polka dots are also banned (apparently because they might make for an easier target for a terrorist) Home Affairs has denied this
  • A social club is banned because it might lead to the consumption of alcohol. Home Affairs has denied this

Now, bear in mind these are just claims from people who, we assume, have worked at Immigration/Home Affairs or still do. We put them to Home Affairs, and a spokesperson provided this response.

The Department has a privileged position as Australia’s security and law enforcement portfolio, protecting the border and keeping Australians safe. Departmental disciplinary and security measures are designed to safeguard this privileged position. Given the nature of the Department’s work, it is a required prerequisite for all members of staff to exercise sound security practices as a natural part of their professional workplace behaviour. The Australian community has high expectations regarding Departmental staff’s behaviour and actions. As such, the Department has a strong integrity culture and sets the highest standards of personal and professional behaviours. The Department’s security, disciplinary and social policies are one of the strongest in the Commonwealth. Robust action is taken against individuals where misconduct is identified. Australian Public Service employees, including staff in the Department are expected to dress in a professional manner.

Home Affairs’ follow-up statement:

“There is no ban on women wearing high heels. Women in operational roles across the Home Affairs portfolio adhere to the relevant uniform standards of their agency. There is also no ban on bright or polka dot (or any other patterned) clothing. The only requirement on staff in non-operational roles is to dress in a professional manner. There is no ban on social clubs at the Department.”

Does your workplace have eccentric rules and weird requirements? Let us know at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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