Sexual violence a bloke problem: minister

·3-min read

A senior minister in the federal government has spoken out against sexual violence and harassment, saying they are problems men need to fix.

Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price joined thousands of women outside Parliament House this week to protest against sexual discrimination and abuse.

"Let me be clear - this is a bloke problem, not a woman problem," she wrote in The Australian on Friday.

"Too often we hear about the number of women who have been raped, rather than the number of men who have raped women.

"It is men who need to be better."

Scott Morrison has been criticised for comments he made after the women's marches.

The prime minister said while Australian women had the right to rally, protesters in other countries were met with bullets.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said people had misinterpreted the remarks.

"What he was saying was that in Australia we have a right to protest, we have a right to demonstrate," he told the ABC.

"In many places, including those close to home in our region, they don't share the same democratic rights and values and freedoms that are the foundation for our country."

Making her case following the marches for justice, Ms Price said she was not interested in a "man bashing" exercise.

She said there were many good, respectful men who were horrified at the way women were often treated.

"But as a government, we recognise women are angry. We are listening. We are taking action," Ms Price said.

"We know these are serious issues many workplaces and communities in Australia are challenged by.

"Everyone deserves to be safe in their workplace and our national parliament should aim to be a model workplace."

The government has launched an independent review into workplace cultures in Parliament House, to be led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

Ahead of the inquiry, Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie has offered her view on cultural problems in parliament.

"I've experienced arrogance, entitlement and elitism more than sexism, but it's easy to mistake them for each other," she wrote in The New Daily.

Senator Lambie took aim at the prevalence of rich politicians from privileged backgrounds.

"People who talk in jargon, who treat policy like sport, who all went to prestigious universities after attending prestigious private schools, who have three pairs of black RM Williams boots," she wrote.

"When the politicians that rule us are all coming from the same gene pool, generation after generation, you end up with a pretty weird gene pool.

"Look at the royal family, God bless them."

Political staffers are being given extra legal protection to come forward with complaints of sexual harassment or abuse.

The Morrison government is making legislative changes to ensure information given to the review remains confidential.

Draft legislation was quickly introduced and passed by the Senate on Thursday night to ensure the information cannot be accessed through freedom of information requests.

The swift passage ensures the House of Representatives can pass the bill next week.

Senior minister Simon Birmingham hopes the inquiry will help parliamentarians prevent bullying, harassment and sexual assault, and better respond to incidents when they occur.