An independent review has been launched after staff at a government agency were allegedly urinated on by a colleague. 

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has ordered the independent review of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) following questions raised before a Senate Estimates hearing at Parliament House in November. 

During the November 8 hearing, Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson asked APVMA chief executive Lisa Croft if she was aware of any sexual harassment claims from staff at the agency.

“I've been told about an incident that occurred at a staff Christmas party in 2021 in which a male senior staff member allegedly urinated on other staff members,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.

“Was such an incident reported to you, and if so was any action taken?”

Ms Croft appeared to acknowledge some details of the alleged incident.

“I am not aware of it in that context, not at a Christmas party … I am aware of an incident that occurred in a private capacity, not at a work function,” Ms Croft told the hearing.

Ms Croft said no official complaint had been made regarding the matter, and the staff member in question has since resigned.

Still, Senator Watt now says he has ordered an independent review, to be undertaken by Canberra lawyer Mary Brennan, following a briefing he had received from Ms Croft and the APVMA board chair.

“The information that was aired during Senate Estimates was concerning to say the least and came as a complete surprise to me,” Senator Watt said.

“People have a right to feel safe and supported in the workplace. I have unapologetically high standards in this regard.

“Equally, Australians have a right to expect our public service, in particular our regulatory agencies, to be well managed and above reproach.

“This independent review will shine a light on any lingering internal issues and restore public trust in this small but important agency.”

An APVMA staff survey recently found that 11 per cent of staff had witnessed or experienced harassment and 13 per cent had reported discrimination in the workplace.

The independent review will report to the minister by March 31.