Rebekha calls on PM to amend Sex Discrimination Act

24 Mar 2021
Rebekha sex discrim 2 Reps Motion youtube

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has called on the Prime Minister to bring on for debate a Private Member's Bill that would close a loophole that makes Members of Parliament and Judges exempt from sexual harassment laws.

Yesterday the local MP and fellow crossbench member Zali Steggall tried, without success, to bring before the House of Representatives the Independent Member for Warringah's Sex Discrimination Amendment (Prohibiting All Sexual Harassment) Bill 2021.

The Private Member's Bill seeks to amend the Sex Discrimination Act so that judges and members of parliament are not excluded under the legislation. At present statutory appointees are not adequately protected, nor personally liable, for sexual harassment.

Amending the Act was one of the recommendations in the 2018 Respect@Work Report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.

The Government, with the support of new crossbench member Craig Kelly MP, had the numbers to vote down the attempt to suspend standing orders so the legislation could be debated and voted on.

"There's still time for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to change his mind. Most of today's business is consumed with speeches on budget appropriations, not urgent legislation, so we could debate this important issue," Rebekha said.

"Every other year budget appropriations have been debated in the Federation Chamber. If they are shifting this debate to the House of Representatives, it just tells me the Government has no urgent agenda.

"The Prime Minister could bring on this Bill. He has the opportunity to send a very clear message to the Australian community that we believe we need to change in here.

"As long as it’s just words and it’s not action, nothing will change in this place. All that’s happening is that the whole of the Australian community has even less respect for us as members of parliament."

In her speech in parliament yesterday, Rebekha questioned why the Government could act so quickly in 2018 when needles were being found in strawberries, but they couldn't take action on sexual harassment in the workplace.

"When there were needles in strawberries, my goodness, did we address that quickly in here! It flew through both chambers," Rebekha said.

"Let’s do that with this (Bill). This is a critical issue; the Australian public wants better of us and are demanding change. And we must be the change."

You can read Rebekha's speech here.

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