The Guardian’s article (below) by Katharine Murphy was, as usual, of great interest. It did however raise some very important questions – particularly about priorities! Birmingham initially said a key focus of the review would be improving safety in the building. Sure, that is important but we would argue that it is not at the top of the list. Top of the list : In our view are: 1. Ensuring the victims of sexual assault and lewd behaviour are looked after first and foremost. To that end, an independent commissioner should be engaged as the primary point of contact. That commissioner will inform the relevant Ministers and staff. 2. A punishable code of behavior for the male members and staff of Parliament House be implemented along with an education program on acceptable conduct. 3. All sides of the parliament are to actively promote the new code()s) and culture. Progress should be reviewed every 6 months for the first 3 years. 4. The relevant law(s) need to be amended to ensure that any and all guilty parties are immediately dismissed from Parliament regardless of party or position.
In the case at hand, the Prime Minister himself needs to be held to account and admonished publicly for his outrageous behavior in recent times. As Penny Wong pointed out, his statement that ‘I’m not going to be distracted by that’ when women complained about bullying in his government, was way of the mark. What a despicable response and an even more appalling example.
The toxic culture is his! Scott Morrison! Misogynist! Bully! Morally corrupt! As for Simon Birmingham, well perhaps he could focus more on the culture and the victims rather than the damned processes. Senator Waters might be able to help him there.
Government asks sex discrimination commissioner for help as fourth allegation made against man accused of raping Brittany Higgins Katharine Murphy Political editor @murpharoo Mon 22 Feb 2021 19.20 AEDT The federal finance minister, Simon Birmingham, says he has spoken to the sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, about an independent inquiry into parliamentary culture as a fourth complaint emerged against the former staffer who is alleged to have raped Brittany Higgins. Over the past few days, the Australian newspaper has reported two new allegations against the staffer, after Higgins last week went public with the allegation she was sexually assaulted on a couch in parliament house by a former colleague in March 2019. On Monday, the ABC reported another woman had made a formal report at a police station in Canberra on Sunday about Higgins’ former colleague. The complaint from the unnamed woman was reported to involve inappropriate touching in a Canberra bar. Birmingham said on Monday the allegations were weighing on him “very, very heavily”. The finance minister said it was clear that workplace culture inside Parliament House needed to change. “Any workplace should be a safe workplace and the parliament should lead by example in terms of providing that safety,” Birmingham told the ABC. Asked why the member of staff alleged to have assaulted Higgins was terminated for a security breach and “sent on his way”, Birmingham said Reynolds had assisted Higgins with making an initial police complaint. But he said it was “distressing” that the young staffer did not feel as though she could proceed with that complaint without jeopardising her career. Birmingham said a key focus of the review would be improving safety in the building, but also ensuring that any staff who found themselves in similar circumstances felt sufficiently supported to take any claim forward. Birmingham said it was also important to examine what people should do if they had been informed of serious allegations, but victims chose not to pursue a police complaint. “This is one of the significant tension points as to at what point the rights of individuals in making their decisions are respected versus the responsibility of others to try to pursue actions if they are not being pursued or undertaken by the individual,” Birmingham said. The finance minister said he had spoken to Jenkins to seek her assistance, and he wanted to speak to staff representatives as well as Higgins. “I will welcome Brittany Higgins’ input – I will be reaching out there,” Birmingham said. In the Senate on Monday morning, Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said the words of sympathy expressed by the prime minister over the weekend “ring hollow [while] there is no culture of accountability”. “Mr Morrison talks about culture,” Wong said. “But what he is not talking about is the culture he leads, the culture he leads in his own government, where no matter what happens, he is never responsible”. Wong said that when a Four Corners episode on the “Canberra bubble” raised serious concerns about the culture of mistreatment of women and his government, the government “tried to silence the ABC”. “When women complained of bullying in his government, he said ‘I’m not going to be distracted by that’,” Wong said. Green senator Larissa Waters told the Senate on Monday: “We need to systematically unpick the misogyny, the inequality, the privilege that creates a culture in which what happened to Brittany Higgins, to Rachelle Miller, to Chelsey Potter, to Dhanya Mani, and to so many others, is downplayed as ‘just what happens in parliament’. “Yes, we need a comprehensive review of the compliance process, and an independent body so that no one feels as Brittany Higgins did: that making the complaint would end their career,” Waters said. “But we also need an enforceable code of conduct binding senators and members and senior staff to the highest standards of behavior, and for there to be genuine consequences when we fail to meet those standards.”
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