CSIRO scientist ‘hit on bum with riding crop’, court hears

A FORMER CSIRO scientist who claims she was sexually harassed by her male colleagues was "penalised and systematically punished" for speaking out, her lawyer says.

Dr Katherine Morton is suing the CSIRO in the Federal Court over claims she was made redundant after complaining about instances of alleged sexual harassment including being hit on the bum with a riding crop and subjected to comments about her cleavage and sexual preferences.

Barrister Lisa Willson told the Federal Court in Brisbane Dr Morton was asked whether she had "crows feet" wrinkles, told her nickname was "dizzy blonde", emailed photos of scantily clad men and women and called a "hussy" during her time at the Brisbane CSIRO from 2012 to 2016.

Ms Willson said when Dr Morton complained about the alleged treatment, she was stripped of her duties and eventually made redundant.

"Dr Morton will also give evidence that her mental health started to deteriorate from 2012 onwards and progressively worsened from her treatment at the CSIRO," Ms Willson said.

Former CSIRO Senior Research Scientist Katherine Morton. Picture: Liam Kidston
Former CSIRO Senior Research Scientist Katherine Morton. Picture: Liam Kidston

But barrister for the CSIRO Justin Bourke QC slammed Dr Morton's claims of sexual harassment saying they were false and that she had requested the redundancy.

"We get sued for giving her a redundancy she asked for, we can't win," Mr Bourke told the court.

The barrister said the incident in October 2012 when Dr Morton's male boss smacked her on the bum with a riding crop was a "playful situation" and that he had taken the crop from her after she had been walking around smacking others and that he hit her with it lightly and told her to get back to work.

"Not in a sexual way, in a playful way," Mr Bourke said.

"What that event has become and as foreshadowed by Dr Morton is that Dr (Brett) Glenncross came up behind her when she was alone in the sampling room and hit her hard with the riding crop.

"And that scenario is in fact false, we'll prove it's false."

Mr Bourke told the court Dr Morton's had fabricated claims in her statement that Dr Glencross had spoken about dominatrix behaviour at a dinner the night before he allegedly hit her with the crop.

"On 28 June 2018 for the very very first time never alleged in any pleading you won't find it in any of the 20 volumes of court book says she was at dinner with Dr Glencross and that he raised the topic of dominatrixes, that is the night before these events," he said.

"We will show that was a recent invention she realised, 'oh I can't prove this case… I've got to show it's got something to do with my sex, I've got to show it's not just a hitting with a riding crop I've got to show that it's sexual' so for the very first time she alleges that … the night before this incident that Dr Glencross had raised the topic of dominatrixes thus she was painting a picture that he had a sexual fetish."

The hearing continues.