Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said Mr Boyce’s conduct would “undermine trust in the professionalism of the Commission” and said he was the “last person who should be an umpire over what’s fair in the workplace”.
After the figurines were removed, Ms O’Neill said another issue arose: Fair Work Commission employees were concerned Mr Boyce had installed what appeared to be a security camera in his office without consulting the commission.
“A question such as that was raised with me several weeks ago,” Ms O’Neill said. “That was the allegation that was put. There was a conversation with him about the inappropriateness of that as well. [Mr Boyce] advised that it was either fake or not working and that he would remove it.”
Labor Senator Tony Sheldon called the episode a “horrendous breach of workplace standards” in an organisation charged with adjudicating workers’ and employers’ rights.
Gerard Boyce was appointed to the Fair Work Commission by the Coalition government in 2018. The Guardian reported last year that Mr Boyce had made several social media posts supportive of the government while serving on the commission.
Labor has argued the Coalition is stacking the commission with appointees with employer backgrounds, a charge the government rejects.
Asked whether Mr Boyce also had a life-size cutout of United States President Donald Trump in his office, Ms O’Neill said his having such an object would be “unhelpful” and “at the very least unwise”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, representing the government, said that “any conduct in the workplace which demeans or disrespect women is completely unacceptable.”
Senator Payne said she had been unaware of the issue before it was raised in Senate estimates but said she would “seek the advice of the Minister [for Industrial Relations Christian Porter] in relation to this”.
Mr Boyce, a former barrister, was employed 14 years ago by Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA, an industry group, until 2006 when he became a barrister.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age sought comment from Mr Boyce through the Fair Work Commission.
Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.