Administrative Appeals Tribunal hears Peter Tregear compensation case
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Administrative Appeals Tribunal hears Peter Tregear compensation case

Current and former members of the Australian National University's executive have been accused of lying during a hearing aimed at determining whether former School of Music head Peter Tregear is owed compensation from the Commonwealth insurer.

Comcare has previously ruled against paying Professor Tregear the incapacity benefits he believes he's owed after leaving the university just months after signing a continuing contract.

Peter Tregear left the ANU in August 2015.

Peter Tregear left the ANU in August 2015.

Photo: Melissa Adams

His departure in August 2015 came after a build-up of issues with the ANU's administration, including the surprise advertisement of a senior job within the School while he was still on staff and an incident involving security guards Professor Tregear believes were called to escort him off campus.

At a hearing in front of Administrative Appeals Tribunal deputy president Greg Melick, barrister Charles Clark, acting on behalf of Comcare, said the insurer believed Professor Tregear was not incapacitated when he left the ANU, pointing to his subsequent lecturing job at the Royal Holloway university in London.

Comcare also believed the ANU offered Professor Tregear suitable alternative employment ahead of his departure by offering to create a director of music position with fewer administrative responsibilities but carrying the same salary, Mr Clark said.

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Barrister Allan Anforth, representing Professor Tregear, said the director of music position was "not suitable employment and we refused it", arguing the real question was whether Professor Tregear would have been able to continue in the Head of Music role.

He called on Mr Melick to take into account "the political and health considerations" when examining whether Professor Tregear could have taken on even the lower-level director of music role within the ANU.

The tribunal heard Professor Tregear took approved study and travel leave between February 6 and April 28, 2015 using medical certificates certifying him unfit for normal duties.

His doctor had facilitated his return to work aware that his absence was causing him distress, he said. By August, the hearing was told, "I felt completely under siege".

"I could not gain traction in the School, I could not gain the confidence of senior management," Professor Tregear said.

The proffered director of music job "did not separate myself from fundamental problem I had, which was trust in senior levels of the university to act in good faith," Professor Tregear said. He signed a Deed of Separation on August 13, 2015.

Professor Tregear said the Royal Holloway teaching job was a "filler position" and taken in the belief continuing to work would aid his rehabilitation. The hearing was told that while Professor Tregear was in London he received cognitive behavioural therapy, took a course of anti-depressants and at one point was prescribed sleeping tablets.

Elements of senior ANU staff's statements were dismissed by Professor Tregear as lies, including that the ANU would have facilitated his return as head of the School of Music and a differing version of events related to the visit from security guards.

Former ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young, current deputy vice chancellor (academic) Marnie Hughes-Warrington, ANU human resources director Nadine White and mental health professionals will be called upon to give evidence at the hearing, which continues until Friday.

Correction: A previous version of this story said Professor Tregear left the ANU with more than a year left on his contract. Professor Tregear signed a continuing contract in June 2015.

Emily Baker is a reporter for the Sunday Canberra Times. She previously reported on education for The Canberra Times.