Australian parliamentarians will now be subject to regulations on sexual harassment in the workplace, the Conservative government announced Thursday (April 8th), which is trying to appease public anger after accusations of sexual assault in Parliament.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated his government will revise gender discrimination legislation to hold parliamentarians, magistrates and civil servants accountable for harassing their colleagues in the workplace.
“It’s about putting everyone on an equal footing, as far as possible”, Morrison told reporters from Canberra.
Parliamentarians, judges and civil servants currently enjoy immunity from harassment in the workplace even though they may be subject to criminal prosecution for sexual assault.
” Serious misconduct “
Many voices have long denounced the sexist culture of Australia’s political class. This decision follows a report entitled “Respect @ Work” (respect at work) published last year following an investigation into sexual harassment. It also comes a few weeks after two resounding cases involving two ministers and which weakened the executive.
A former government employee claimed she was raped in 2019 by a colleague in a minister’s parliamentary office, while the government’s senior legal adviser was revealed to be the minister accused of the 1988 rape of a teenage girl with whom he studied.
Michaelia Cash, who replaced the government’s top legal official last week, said the legislative changes would include making sexual harassment in the workplace a matter of law. ” serious misconduct “ and would be a valid reason for termination. The government also plans to extend the period during which a victim can report an incident from six months to two years, she added.
Mr. Morrison has come under heavy criticism for failing to act on the 55 recommendations made in January 2020 in the Respect @ Work report. The Prime Minister dismissed the criticism on Thursday, saying his government has already pledged to fund several recommendations it deemed high priority.
“Last year, we focused on these very urgent needs to protect women at a time when they were very vulnerable during the Covid”, he underlined, congratulating himself on being able to “Address these issues in the longer term”.