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Canberra's workplace culture revealed in new report

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins addresses media during a press conference in Sydney, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. Source: AAP

In the wake of rape allegations by former liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, this report investigates the culture of sexual assault, harassment and bullying in parliamentary workplaces across the country, and seeks to ensure a safer, more inclusive future.

After eight months of review, the highly anticipated 'Set the Standard' report into parliamentary culture has been released to the public.

The report, tabled by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, was established in light of concerns raised by former political staffer Brittany Higgins that Parliament House was a toxic and unsafe workplace for women.

Ms Higgins went public in February about her alleged 2019 rape in a minister's office by a colleague.

Ms Jenkins' report reveals one-third of people working in Canberra's parliamentary precinct and electoral offices report being sexually harassed on the job.

"Over half - that's 51 per cent - of all people currently in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment, or actual or attempted sexual assault. Across all parliamentary workplaces, 40 per cent of women have been sexually harassed compared to 26 per cent of men. Women we spoke to told us they felt lucky when they had not directly experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault."

The 456 page report includes 28 recommendations, including the need for all parties to push for gender parity in order to change the workplace culture.

It also highlights the importance of creating a new code of conduct for MPs and their staff, to be enforced by an Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked Ms Jenkins to investigate the culture in the days following Ms Higgins announcement.

"Like anyone who works in this building I find the statistics that are presented there of course appalling and disturbing. I wish I found them more surprising."

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to the feature in Punjabi.

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