The Government welcomes the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces, and thanks Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins for her leadership of this important review.
We thank the over 1,750 individuals and organisations who contributed to the Jenkins Review. These experiences, observations and insights will be crucial to driving the positive change that is required.
It is an important review with a series of findings and recommendations that the Government, Opposition, minor parties and crossbench must all carefully consider and respond to. These are problems we all own. And we all have a responsibility to fix this.
The Review was established with cross-party support because everyone believes the Parliament of Australia should set the standard for the nation and reflect best practice in the prevention of and response to any instances of bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault.
Every single Australian has a right to feel and to be safe at work. However, the report highlights that people, particularly women, in Parliamentary workplaces have experienced bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
It is clear that practical and cultural changes are necessary to make our Parliamentary workplaces safer.
As a first step, to drive this change, the Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham and the Special Minister of State Ben Morton will consult with the Opposition, minor parties and the independents on a way forward to respond to Commissioner Jenkins’ review.
Second, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has been instructed to provide every necessary resource and support required by the multi-party approach.
This multi-party approach, with the coordinating support of the Department, has already served the Parliament well this year, in implementing significant reforms recommended by the Foster Review.
The success of this approach through the Foster Review has delivered positive outcomes for all Parliamentarians and staff. We all have cause for confidence that this approach will again ensure the outcomes recommended by Commissioner Jenkins can be achieved.
Third, the Government will continue the existing supports that we already have in place – the dedicated unit of support staff within the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service and the independent complaints mechanism, 24-hour support line, and the continued workplace safety training. These important supports will keep running and adapt as necessary as Parliament responds to these recommendations.
This will build on the work already underway to implement the recommendations of the Foster Report of Serious Incidents in the Parliamentary Workplace and the significant measures we have already put in place to make our workplace safer.
We recognise that in hearing the experiences of current and former staff and Parliamentarians, there will be some difficult reflections. This should not take away from the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who work in Australia’s Parliament, and the agencies that assist with its operation, do so with the upmost integrity and are dedicated to making a difference to our nation.
To support current staff within the building there will be counsellors available onsite for appointments until 7pm tonight, 9-7pm tomorrow and 9-8pm on Thursday.
The Government looks forward to continuing to work constructively with all Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to make the changes we need to ensure our workplace is safe, supportive and respectful.