'Appalling' number of Parliament workers sexually assaulted or harassed: report

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Scott Morrison said he was appalled but not surprised by a review finding over half the staff working in Parliament have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault. 

The prime minster on Tuesday released the report by Kate Jenkins, which examined Parliament House’s workplace culture, and revealed its alarming findings.

The review —sparked by rape allegations made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins— looked into the national standard for keeping workers safe from harassment, bullying and sexual assault.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Kate Jenkins review on Tuesday. Pictured at press conference holding up report.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Kate Jenkins review into parliamentary culture on Tuesday. Source: AAP

"I do thank her [Brittany Higgins] for standing up and speaking up," Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.

"Her voice has been listened to."

The review made 28 recommendations into the federal parliament's workplace culture, including recommending parliamentary leaders and department heads make a public statement acknowledging the harm caused by bullying, and sexual harassment and assault.

'Wish I found it more surprising': Scott Morrison

The review, called Set the Standard, examined workplace harassment and bullying in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces (CPW).

"Over half (51 per cent) of all people currently in CPWs have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault in a CPW," it read.

"Overall, over three-quarters of people (77 per cent) currently working in these workplaces have experienced, witnessed or heard about bullying, sexual harassment and/or actual or attempted sexual assault in CPWs."

More than 1700 people and 33 organisations contributed to the inquiry that conducted 490 interviews.

Kate Jenkins wearing glasses with shoulder length brown hair speaking camera looking up towards her
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins was tasked by the government to look into problems with parliamentary culture. Source: AAP

The review found 33 per cent of workers reported sexual harassment, a number which Mr Morrison declared "appalling and disturbing."

"I wish I found them more surprising. But I find them just as appalling," he told reporters.

"And that’s why the actions I think that are recommended do cover all the territory that they’ve been able to take us forward. And what I’ve seen has only reinforced my view about the actions that we’ve already taken."

According to the review's report, women experienced sexual harassment at a higher rate compared to men; at 40 per cent compared to 26 per cent.

The review also calls for targets for gender diversity among parliamentarians, codes of conduct for MPs, senators and their staff members as well as an independent standards commission.

"I'm deeply grateful to each of the people who engaged with us. It is a privilege to have been trusted by you," Ms Jenkins told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

"Many people shared distressing experiences of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault, sometimes for the first time. They said these things could never be shared with anyone else."

Key points from the Set the Standard report:

  • 37 per cent of people in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces have personally experienced bullying.

  • 65 per cent of the most recent bullying events occurred in Parliament House itself or the parliamentary precincts.

  • 33 per cent of people have personally experienced sexual harassment in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces.

  • 54 per cent of the most recent sexual harassment occurred at Parliament House.

  • one per cent of people have experienced actual or attempted sexual assault in a Commonwealth parliamentary workplace.

  • Repeated misconduct is also an issue with 66 per cent of people reporting the bully had bullied other people and 28 per cent saying the harasser had harassed other people.

with AAP

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