Fri, 28 Jan 2022

Australia Urged to Combat Toxic Parliament House Workplace

Voice of America
02 Dec 2021, 18:36 GMT+10

SYDNEY - Australia's center-right government is being urged to implement recommendations of a report saying a third of workers in the Federal Parliament have been sexually harassed.

Sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has recommended a significant overhaul of the Federal Parliament's workplace culture.

Her report, released Tuesday, called Set the Standard, found that 51% of parliamentary staff members in Canberra had experienced some form of bullying and sexual harassment, as well as actual or attempted sexual assault. The victims were disproportionately women.

Jenkins said the situation has been devastating for individuals, and undermined Parliament's performance.

The inquiry was launched after a former political staffer, Brittany Higgins, said she had been raped by a colleague in a minister's office.

It resulted in a wave of wide-ranging allegations of misconduct in Canberra and beyond.

Niki Vincent, Victoria state's public sector gender equality commissioner, is investigating workplace sexual harassment in 300 public organizations, including universities and local councils.

"This last couple of years, you know, have really highlighted the issues of sexual harassment and its relationship to gender inequality,' Vincent said. 'Any organization that is not on alert around sexual harassment these days is burying its head on the sand and is being rather ridiculous."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the Set the Standard report's findings "appalling."

He is being urged by campaigners to implement the report's recommendations, including gender balances among parliamentary staff and politicians, and reducing a culture that tolerates excessive alcohol consumption.

Higgins said she wanted to "thank the many brave people who shared their stories, which contributed to this review."

The man accused of raping Higgins has denied the allegation and is set to face trial next year.

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