Credit where it’s semi-due: the government has announced an independent investigation into the workplace culture at Parliament House and how it responds to issues of sexual harassment and discrimination, in the wake of Brittany Higgins‘ allegations. Huge. And about bloody time.
The investigation will be led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, and will hear from current and former staffers and politicians about the culture.
The review will give an update in July, and issue a final report in November, when it will be making recommendations on how to change the culture and ensure Parliament House is a safe working environment.
“Our desire is that this is a long enough time for it to be a thorough and comprehensive piece of work, but also to get a response back this year, such that we can then act on the recommendations, provide the positive examples for the future,” Special Minister of State Simon Birmingham said from Adelaide on Friday.
“It is so important to get this work done and to get it done properly.
“It’s important for the victims of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s important for their loved ones. It is also important for the many innocent bystanders who have found themselves in workplaces or environments that are under question or under a cloud at present.”
The investigation comes after Parliament House has been rocked by allegations from staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleged she was raped by a colleague in the office of then-Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds.
Since Higgins went public, three more women have come forward with allegations ranging from assault to harassment about the same staffer. There are still major questions to be answered about the way Reynolds responded to the allegations, and why – as he claims – no one thought to tell Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“We recognise the significant public interest in this issue and the need to ensure matters will be treated with sensitivity, confidentiality, and be trauma-informed,” Jenkins said in a statement.
More to come.