The Morrison Government has voted against the implementation of landmark sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace reforms, and has rightfully been slammed by Brittany Higgins, among others, online.

Before we dive into why this is such a shitty decision, here’s a quick bit of background.

In 2018, there was a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces led and instigated by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, Kate Jenkins.

This resulted in 2020’s Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report, or, the Respect@Work Report, which highlights 55 changes that would be required to ensure the country doesn’t “lag behind” others with the protections it offers for those who experience sexual harassment in the workplace.

“I have been devastated by the experiences of sexual harassment within workplaces I have heard about through this Inquiry, the harms suffered by victims and the cost to the economy,” Jenkins wrote in the report.

“The current legal and regulatory system is simply no longer fit for purpose. In this report, I have recommended a new model that… is evidence-based, victim-focused and framed through a gender and intersectional lens.”

Sounds pretty fkn great because it is. Earlier this year Morrison even called the Report a “game-changer”, reassuring us that he has agreed to or noted the 55 recommended changes.

Well, it looks like he agreed to only a handful, because yesterday the Government voted against 49 of the recommended changes, leaving a massive gap in workplace protections against sexual harassment.

“These reforms would have had a real long term impact on the lives of all Australian women ensuring safer and more equitable workplaces,” Brittany Higgins wrote on Twitter.

“It’s devastating to see a real opportunity for positive change be denied for all the working women in this country.”

In her tweet, Higgins also points out the changes that were denied, including an explicit ban on sexual harassment in the workplace, a requirement for employers to try and stop sexual harassment in the workplace and legal protections for sexual harassment victims, among many others.

Some of the changes that were approved however include sexual harassment now being a valid reason for someone to be fired and individuals who would like to report sexual harassment in the workplace now having two years to do so instead of only six months, which supports those hesitant to come forward right away.

Despite a very small selection of changes going through, it’s quite disheartening to see 49 of them get tossed aside and left out of the legislation reforms.

If you need me, my head is going to be planted firmly into the sand.

Image: Getty Images / Rohan Thomson