Brittany Higgins calls for 'immediate action' following report into parliamentary culture

Brittany Higgins said she hoped "all sides of politics" would fully implement all recommendations from a damning report into workplace culture at Parliament House.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins at the March 4 Justice rally in Canberra.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins at the March 4 Justice rally in Canberra. Source: Getty Images AsiaPac

This story contains reference to sexual harassment and sexual assault 

Survivors and politicians have called for immediate action following the release of a devastating report into workplace culture at Parliament House that revealed one in three staffers have experienced sexual harassment.

The report — conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins — also found young women and those who identified as LGBTIQ+ were more likely to experience sexual harassment.

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It made several recommendations, including calling for a statement to the parliament acknowledging the “bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces and a commitment to action and shared accountability”.

It also recommends all parties push for gender parity, the creation of a new code of conduct for MPs and their staff, and enforcement by an Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission.



Handing down the report, Ms Jenkins said: "women told us they felt lucky when they had not directly experienced sexual harassment and assault." 

She noted, "misconduct is often dealt with as a political problem, rather than as a people issue."

The report was commissioned in the aftermath of concerns raised by former political staffer Brittany Higgins, who has alleged she was raped in Parliament House by an ex-colleague.

Several participants in the report discussed the fear of losing one's job if they reported sexual harassment or abuse and concerns these reports could be weaponised by their political opponents.

Responding to the report's findings, Ms Higgins said in a statement she wanted "to thank the many brave people who shared their stories which contributed to this review."

She said she was pleased to see the report and hoped it "inspired immediate action".

"I hope all sides of politics not only commit to but implement these recommendations in full," she added.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard said of the review: "It's time to change our federal parliament forever."

"We need a code of conduct and an effective way of receiving and acting on complaints," she said.

"We need all political parties to work together with urgency and ambition."

Australia’s leading institute for women’s leadership urged all political parties and independents to commit to implementing the recommendations of the independent review.

Strong Female Lead, Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard in parliament. Source: SBS

The Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL) at the Australian National University - established and led by Ms Gillard - said the review offers clear reforms to make all parliamentary workplaces safer.

“There isn’t a minute to waste. All workplaces should be safe for women. It’s simply not good enough that they still aren’t, said ANU GIWL Director Professor Michelle Ryan.

“Gender equality is not just about the number of women in a workplace; it is also about the nature of the women’s experiences in those workplaces," she said.

"The Jenkins review provides a blueprint on how to change this. Our political leaders must now make it happen."



Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday it was "appalling" and "disturbing" that 33 per cent of staffers reported some kind of sexual harassment.

"I wish I found it more surprising," he told reporters.

Mr Morrison said parliament should set the standard for workplace behaviour and it had failed to do so.

"Just because this is a challenging environment … this is no excuse to normalise inappropriate, unhealthy and unprofessional behaviour," he said.

"I think the recommendations cover all the right territory.

"I don't care what your job is or what your responsibilities are, nothing justifies that."

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the review wouldn't have happened without the "bravery and sacrifice" of Ms Higgins and the many others who told their stories.

"As politicians, it is now our job to make sure their bravery is not in vain," she tweeted.


If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.

 

 


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4 min read
Published 30 November 2021 at 3:06pm
By Eden Gillespie
Source: SBS News