Crossbench comes together to call for review of Parliament House culture

17 Feb 2021

Every member of the Lower House Crossbench has come together to demand an urgent review of workplace procedures at Australian Parliament House, following the latest harrowing allegations of serious sexual assault.

The letter, co-signed this morning by Adam Bandt, Dr Helen Haines, Bob Katter, Rebekha Sharkie, Zali Steggall, and Andrew Wilkie, commends women for coming forward with their allegations of abuse, noting the culture of secrecy and cover up that pervades the building.

A copy of the letter is available here

The MPs say Parliament House should be setting the highest standards in terms of workplace safety and grievance handling. Instead, the workplace is earning a reputation of harassment, bullying and a place of toxic culture and sexism.

The letter this morning was delivered to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition.

The letter calls for an Independent Review that examines:

  1. The current complaints handling process and associated policies,
  2. The detail of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (the Act) that establishes the current employment structure,
  3. Any necessary changes to the Act to improve the overall health, safety and wellbeing of all staff employed under that Act,
  4. The formation of an independent body to oversee future complaints and grievances,

Adam Bandt MP, Leader of the Australian Greens:

“In November last year, I asked the Prime Minister to establish an independent internal complaints process and he dismissed it, but it is a reform that is long overdue. Parliament House’s toxic culture is an issue which is caused by men, and it’s vital that men lead the efforts to clean it up.

This building has been a boys’ club for too long, and the Prime Minister can’t try to push what has happened to a secretive and internal inquiry. Parliament’s internal complaints process lets women down and fails to deal properly with sexual harassment and sexual assault. As men, it’s vital that we lead the charge for reform and build a culture that ensures women feel safe, whether at work or elsewhere.”

Helen Haines MP, Independent for Mayo:

“These appalling allegations are just the latest incident to lay bare the problematic culture in Parliament and the lack of support for staff. This wouldn’t be tolerated in any other workplace. Unfortunately I have no confidence that things have improved since this brave young woman first sought support from her employer two years ago”

“The time has passed for internal reviews with secret findings. We now need a thorough external review, independent from party and free from inside influence. We need to finally create a culture in the Australian Parliament that benefits the status of this institution”

“Parliament should be a workplace of choice. As a female Independent who calls for young women to join politics, we’re missing out on the best and brightest if we can’t make this place safe. I urge all my fellow Parliamentarians to support this urgent review”

Rebekha Sharkie MP, Centre Alliance for Mayo:

“Time and time again we’ve seen that politics has been the focus of how workplace issues are managed in this place and we have let people down. If this issue can’t bring unity across the parliament, I cannot think of a single issue that will.”

Zali Steggall MP, Independent for Warringah:

"I have been very shocked and disappointed about the allegations. There are real questions to be answered. There needs to be an independent external review that ensures proper processes are in place and where any pass holder of Parliament House feels comfortable to raise concerns or allegations. The Australia Parliament should be a workplace of best practice, but sadly it is not.”

Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent for Clark:

“Parliament House should be a safe place and an exemplar of the very best practices. But what we’ve got is a shameful workplace where poor behaviour, including serious sexual misconduct, rears its head all too often. The system is broken and the major political parties have shown themselves to be incapable or unwilling to remedy things. It’s way beyond time for the Government to bring in an independent expert to sort things out.”

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