“A very rigid personality”: how to avoid mistakes in the interviewing and selection process

Victoria’s former mining warden has lost a “breach of contract” court battle with the State Government after five years, after claiming he was misled in the job application process.

The mining warden sued the Victorian government and former ALP Minister for Energy and Resources Peter Batchelor following his dismissal in March 2010, just one year into his three-year term.

He argued in the Victorian Supreme Court that the government contravened the now repealed Fair Trading Act by failing to tell him when it appointed him that a review of the role was underway that might lead to its abolition.

He said the government also misled him about the independence he would enjoy in the position, the resources he would receive to carry out his functions and the likelihood of him continuing in the role beyond the initial three-year term.

The court heard that the relationship between the warden and Batchelor crumbled quickly, culminating in the Minister writing to him in November 2009 listing a number of concerns with his performance.

One complaint was that the warden had moved to shut his Bendigo office contrary to the Minister’s express instructions. Batchelor told the court he regarded that action as “the grossest disregard” of his wishes that he’d experienced during his time as a Minister.

Other concerns included the warden’s management of his budget, his “overly formal” approach to his role including purporting to set the office up as a court, and his public campaigning for additional resources. Rather than respond to the Minister’s issues, the mining warden engaged solicitors, who asked Batchelor for further particulars of his complaints.

The resultant “stand-off” — during which the Minister several times warned the warden that dismissal was an option — ended in March 2010 when the government revoked the warden’s appointment.

Observing the warden’s conduct in court, the judge said he was “extremely hierarchically focused”, and possessed a “very rigid personality”. Rejecting his misleading conduct claim, the judge found that the government had told him about the review of his position before he took it up. The government did not ultimately abolish the position following the review.

On the other misleading conduct allegations, the judge rejected the warden’s claims that the government had suggested that his position might continue beyond three years, that it was usually renewed, or that the role was of a judicial or quasi-judicial nature.

“Rather, at best, these ‘glosses’ expressed his own hopes and desires, and reflected his keen ambition to graduate to a judicial position, using the mining warden’s role as a stepping stone to get there,” said the judge.