Australia: 25 Lose Jobs Over Workplace Porn

Tod Hunter
BARTON, Australia — The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has fired 11 government officers for accessing and storing adult material — including some child pornography — on work computers. Fourteen other officers have resigned.

The Service investigated 71 staff members in Sydney, Darwin and Perth after learning about widespread abuse of the computer system last September. The agency has fined 25 other officers, reprimanded nine, and reduced the salaries of five. One officer is receiving counseling and six are still having their punishments determined in the ongoing investigation.

"It was a culture that was condoned by management," an AQIS employee said. "No one ever came out and said 'Hey guys, this pornography is not [a good idea].' A lot of people at work are worried, including myself. I'm not an angel."

The employee said he had seen staff sending pornography on work computers for at least five years.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, which oversees the quarantine service, confirmed some of the material involved children.

"There were a range of inappropriate and offensive material. In a small number of cases the material involved children," department spokeswoman Elizabeth Bie said.

Most of the staff involved had transmitted and stored pornography on the computers, and none of the officers who were fired had simply received material.

The Australian Federal Police also investigated the situation, but a spokesman said there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges. The COO of the Department of Agriculture took over the investigation and banned all 4,500 employees of the department from storing or distributing any non work-related material on office computers.

"There's now a login screen that you can't go through without accepting responsibilities to abide by the code," Bie said.

This is not the first incident involving misuse of computers in Australian government. The Public Service Commissioner's most recent State of the Service Report said 244 employees in 28 agencies were investigated for improper use of Internet or email between 2005-06.