After the damning reporting about Liberal staffers engaging in sexual misconduct at Parliament house, including one staffer filming himself masturbating over a female politician’s desk, a snap sit-in protest was planned and held by female staffers on Tuesday morning.
An email shared on Twitter by political reporter Samantha Maiden detailed the plan for a peaceful protest at the building’s meditation and prayer room at 8.30am on Tuesday, a space that has been long-rumoured to be a “sex room” that staffers and politicians alike have allegedly frequented for years.
There seems to be some sort of “sit in” being organised – in the meditation room – This week gets curiouser and curiouser pic.twitter.com/mYh6Re6Nlj— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) March 22, 2021
The email, seemingly sent by someone internally within Parliament staff, was shared around to all staff, encouraging people to join and help raise demands that staff deserve to feel safe and secure at work.
The New Daily has also reported that a group of staffers planned to stage the sit-in at the prayer room at Parliament House, noting that private Facebook groups were also used to organise the strike action on Tuesday morning.
Speaking with The New Daily, an unnamed staffer said the recent reports of sexual misconduct in the caverns of Parliament House was the “last straw” for the group of staffers.
“Staff are sick of being silenced by this oppressive building,” they said.
Whispers about the prayer and meditation room in Parliament House being used for sexual rendezvous have been made for decades. Samantha also tweeted that she first heard the rumour back in 1998, and said it’s been “written about a bazillion times”.
Anyway, I first heard the rumour about people shagging in the meditation room in 1998. Thankfully I’ve never been to prayer room (this is starting to sound like Charlene song I’ve never been to me)— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) March 22, 2021
But I’ve never been so glad there’s hand sanitiser now freely available at PH
Former press gallery reporter Ehssan Veiszadeh also noted that he thinks he was probably the only person working at a Federal level that actually used the space for its intended purposes.
While this in no way a laughing matter, I’m starting to think I was one of the only people working in Federal Parliament who used the prayer room for its intended purpose (although I wasn’t a political staffer back then). Pretty gross viewing on Channel 10 tonight! #auspol— Ehssan Veiszadeh (@ehssanv) March 22, 2021
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the rumours as recently as 2018, with Terry Barnes – who was a senior advisor to Tony Abbott during the Howard years – recalling that condoms were present in the meditation room at that time.
“Condoms in the Meditation Room were the norm in my day,” he said.
“And what happened on tour stayed on tour.”