Brittany Higgins has shown true courage. Ms Higgins’ account of her rape in the Defence Minister’s office is sickening. We admire Ms Higgins’ bravery in coming forward, and hope she is now getting the genuine support and justice she is entitled to and the police investigation proceeds swiftly.
There is a clear need for a review into the workplace culture at Parliament House and electorate offices.
To ensure that the review has the confidence of the public and of parliamentary staff, it must be truly independent with bipartisan oversight. To ensure that, the review should be led by an expert from outside of government.
Similar reviews, including of the Australian Defence Force, and the parliaments of Victoria, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, were all led by experts from outside government.
The terms of reference for the review, the conduct of the review and the implementation of its recommendations, should be overseen by a bipartisan group of federal parliamentarians.
Staff should be given the opportunity to participate fully and for their voices to be heard in a confidential and respectful way.
The Presiding Officers have responsibility for the control and management of Parliament House. As such, they must also play a role in the review.
The aim of an independent, bipartisan review should be to ensure the safety of anyone who works at Parliament – parliamentarians, their staff, all staff of the parliament and others who come in contact with them.
We would expect the review to examine issues including:
- An assessment of existing policies, processes, and workplace culture including the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984;
- The establishment of a truly independent complaints process which provides unbiased advice for complainants centred on their well-being;
- Properly resourced support services including high quality trauma-informed counselling;
- A clear focus on cultural change
The Australian Labor Party is in the final stages of adopting an updated version of its existing harassment processes and policies.
We renew the offer made on 12 November, 2020 to work with anyone in this building who wants to make this a safer and more respectful workplace.
All workplaces around Australia need to be safe.
A good place to start would be implementing the recommendations of the [email protected]: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces which was presented to the Federal Government in March 2020.