Angela Williamson, the former Cricket Australia (CA) employee sacked over her tweets criticizing the Tasmanian government’s abortion policies, has rejected an alternative job offer from the board, and is set to fight her case in the Federal Court.
On Friday, Williamson argued before the Fair Work Commission, in a conciliatory hearing with CA, that she had been unfairly sacked over a political opinion. The two parties failed to come to an amiable agreement, however, and Williamson has resolved to continue her battle in court.
“I spoke my mind on a political issue because I believe strongly in the reproductive health rights of Tasmanian women,” Williamson said. “I am disappointed the case didn’t resolve today but I am prepared to continue my fight in the Federal Court.”
On Friday, CA chief executive James Sutherland said he had offered Williamson a new role within CA – that of communications manager – community cricket. She had been employed as a government relations manager in Tasmania before her dismissal.
“We have reflected on Angela’s dismissal and been empathetic to her personal circumstances and the sensitivity of the underlying issues,” Sutherland said.
“Over recent weeks, I have personally been involved in discussions with Angela about a return to CA in the role of communications manager – community cricket. She has informed CA that she will not be taking up the new opportunity and, whilst we are disappointed, we fully respect Angela’s decision.”
Kamal Faroque, Williamson’s lawyer, said Williamson had rejected the offer since it was not the same role she had held previously.
“Angela Williamson spoke about about women’s access to abortion in Tasmania, and she lost her job. That should never have happened,” Williamson’s lawyer Kamal Farouque said. “We will now continue the case in the Federal Court to determine that she should not have lost her job for expressing a political opinion.
“We note that Cricket Australia made a statement early this morning, a few hours prior to the conciliation, disclosing that it had offered Ms Williamson an alternative job.
“The offer was made two weeks ago, directly to Ms Williamson by Cricket Australia. Ms Williamson considered the offer and rejected it as it was not the same position she had been dismissed from.”
While revealing CA’s offer of an alternative role, Sutherland had stated the organisation’s view that it would be untenable for Williamson to continue in a role that involved engaging with the government.
“In our reflections we have also reaffirmed the necessity to administer social media policy while respecting people’s rights to publish personal views,” he said. “The need to be bipartisan in our government engagement has also been acknowledged.
“While this is a difficult matter with many aspects and layers, it’s important that in our leadership of cricket in this country, we continue to be guided and influenced by our values. Our values focus heavily on demonstrating appropriate behaviours and showing respect to members and stakeholders of our diverse community all the time.”
The tweets that led to Williamson’s sacking criticised Tasmania’s health minister Michael Ferguson, describing him as “most irresponsible … gutless and reckless” for helping the government reject a parliamentary motion to return access to abortions in public hospital. In a report published by Fairfax Media, Williamson revealed she had been compelled to fly from Hobart to Melbourne on the mainland to have a surgical abortion in February this year.
Tasmania Police, meanwhile, has dismissed calls for a probe into allegations that Ferguson – who is also police minister – had revealed medical information to CA before she was sacked, when Cricket Tasmania CEO Nick Cummins had called him to apologise for Williamson’s tweets.
Ferguson has denied these allegations, saying he had no access to Williamson’s private medical information, and that any knowledge he had of her experiences came from what Williamson herself had posted on social media, referring to a link she had tweeted to a Buzzfeed article while identifying herself as the subject of the piece.
He also denied that he played any role in getting Williamson sacked, and said he had no issues with her expressing her opinions.
“Mr Cummins rang me because he was concerned that I would interpret Ms Williamson’s comments as an attack on me by Cricket Tasmania,” Ferguson said in a statement. “My point was that anybody who had seen Ms Williamson’s tweets, as I had, would appreciate that her contribution was a personal one and that it was understandable that she was passionate about the issue.
“I expressed that as a politician I am used to public criticism and as Mr Cummins has stated, that I was happy to forgive and forget the tweet Mr Cummins rang me to apologise for. As has already been established, I made no attempt to influence Ms Williamson’s employment status.
“In fact, I asked Mr Cummins to understand that the Government was unreservedly willing to keep working positively with Cricket Australia / Tasmania and was not seeking any apology from Ms Williamson.”