Amid the slew of rape allegations and other misconduct scandals plaguing Parliament House earlier this year, it turns out staff were explicitly banned from speaking to media, The Canberra Times reports. How bloody convenient, indeed.
In March, the Department of Parliamentary Services brought in a brand new media code of conduct which prohibits staff from speaking to media unless they’re part of the media team or they get explicit approval beforehand.
The policy came into play just days before a Four Corners episode about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins aired, in which the Parliament House security guard who signed in Higgins and her alleged rapist that night was interviewed.
At the time, the guard in question told the ABC that there was no security breach, which contradicted the government’s official line about what they did and didn’t know on that night.
The Department of Parliamentary Services told the newspaper that changes weren’t linked to that specific Four Corners episode and that they had actually been in the works since late last year.
However even late last year, the were serious reports about the behaviour of politicians and staffers inside parliament house, including a Four Corners episode into the behaviour of Christian Porter and Alan Tudge.
Parliament House staff have been cautioned to stay silent when approached by media or face the consequences.
DPS staff who now speak publicly “could be found in breach of the code of conduct as well as the Criminal Code Act, which carries a prison term of up to two years”. ???? https://t.co/pK6Pj5vwWf
— Brittany Higgins (@BrittHiggins_) May 16, 2021
The Community and Public Sector Union has slammed the new policy for preventing workers from speaking about what really goes on inside Parliament House.
“This is a heavy-handed response from a Dept that has form on this issue,” CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said on Twitter.
“Workers in Parliament House deserve better and if we want to know the truth about what happens in this building, we should support these frontline workers.”
This is a heavy-handed response from a Dept that has form on this issue.
Workers in Parliament House deserve better and if we want to know the truth about what happens in this building, we should support these frontline workers https://t.co/8a2QWQHBW3
— Melissa Donnelly (@DonnellyMel) May 16, 2021
On top of that, the union’s Deputy National Secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch told The Canberra Times that codes of conduct like this are used “heavy-handedly to force DPS workers to stay silent on issues.”
The new code of conduct came into effect on March 17 – just two days after women all over Australia marches for an end to sexual harassment and violence in the workplace – and so far there have been no breaches that the department is aware of.
Let’s just hope this means people haven’t been prevented from speaking out about what matters.
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Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.Image: Getty Images / clearviewstock & Jamila Toderas