Rebekha welcomes inclusion of MPs and Judges in Sex Discrimination Act

8 Apr 2021

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has welcomed the Government's commitment to making MPs and judges subject to sexual discrimination laws.

The commitment was made this morning by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the new Attorney General Michaelia Cash when they endorsed all 55 recommendations from the Human Rights Commission's 2018 Respect@Work report and announced a range of legislative and regulatory reforms to address workplace sexual harassment.

One of the reforms was addressing the existing discrepancy in the Sex Discrimination Act where MPs, judges and other statutory appointees are not clearly protected from, or liable for sexual harassment in their workplace.

"Today's announcement is welcome but frustrating because the Government had the chance to address this last month by introducing the Crossbench Private Member's Bill that sought to address that loophole. A loophole that was actually raised in the Respect@Work Report as an anomaly that needed to be fixed," Rebekha said.

"The Government had the chance to debate and vote on the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Prohibiting All Sexual Harassment) Bill, introduced by Independent MP Zali Steggall on March 15 with the backing of the Crossbench.

"It was pretty clear from the Respect@Work Report more than a year ago that this issue and the wider issues of workplace safety needed to be fixed

"I believe this morning's announcement is a victory for the pressure brought on by the Crossbench, and community pressure, that the Government is finally standing up and committing to action."

The Sex Discrimination Act Amendment (Prohibiting All Sexual Harassment) Bill aimed to.

  1. Simplify the definition of sexual harassment to be prohibited in all circumstances, including for MPs and Judges
  2. Cancel the exemption for state public servants
  3. Prohibit aiding and abetting sexual harassment

"I would like to thank the tens of thousands of people who attended March4Justice events last month demanding gender equity and gender safety in the workplace,” Rebekha said.

"It took a while but it would appear from this morning's press conference that the Government has heard your voices and is looking to take action.

"But there can be no further delays in addressing the recommendations of the Respect@Work Report."

In addition to amending the Sex Discrimination Act, the Government has also pledged to amend the Fair Work Act to ensure tougher penalties for workers and employers who sexually harass, and to change the Human Rights Act to extend the lifespan of sexual harassment complaints.

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