Morrison Government to Take Action on Jenkins Toxic Culture Inquiry Before Parliament Returns | australian politics
The Morrison government aims to implement the first two recommendations of the Jenkins Review before Parliament resumes in February and to change the laws governing the employment of political staff ahead of elections.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham revealed his implementation schedule in an interview with Guardian Australia’s political podcast. He said the immediate priorities were establishing a leadership task force to oversee the changes and preparing a public statement recognizing the traumatic experiences of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in political offices ready to deliver after the summer holidays.
In November, Australia’s Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins recommended a major overhaul of the federal Parliament’s toxic workplace culture after delivering her landmark report that found one in three staff members questioned had been the victim of sexual harassment.
The Jenkins Inquiry into the Work Culture in Parliament was triggered after former Liberal employee Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped after hours in a ministerial office in March 2019. Higgins’ allegations are the subject of separate criminal proceedings.
The Jenkins review made 28 recommendations, and the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (Myefo) allocated $ 17.8 million over four years to fund their implementation. Birmingham told Guardian Australia the government’s intention was to “take action” on all proposals, starting with the first two recommendations.
“I expect that by the time Parliament returns next year, we will be in a position where the Leadership Task Force [Jenkins] recommended is operational, and the type of declaration it recommended to be made by parliament can be respected, âsaid the Minister of Finance.
Birmingham has said it also wants to implement Jenkins’ proposed changes to the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act, which is the legislative instrument governing the terms and conditions of employment of political staff.
“Our ambition will be to present this specific legislation before the elections, assuming that Parliament returns before the elections – we can do it as quickly as possible,” he said.
Jenkins recommended that political leaders make a public statement recognizing “the impact of misconduct on individuals and the lack of action taken in the past” and “describing the commitment of institutional leaders to change, with shared responsibility for progress â.
A survey accompanying the review found that toxic workplace experiences were common – 37% of respondents in parliamentary workplaces had personally experienced bullying and 33% of people had personally experienced sexual harassment, with 1 % who have experienced actual or attempted sexual assault. It found that 84% of those who were sexually harassed had not sought support or advice.
The review found that gender inequality in the political ecosystem was a key driver of intimidation, sexual harassment and sexual assault in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces. He found that power imbalances and the abuse of power were “one of the main drivers of misconduct.”
Jenkins’ second recommendation was that the government create a leadership task force, overseen by the presidents, “chaired by an independent expert and supported by an implementation group” to ensure that all of the report’s recommendations are met. been implemented.
The Gender Discrimination Commissioner also recommended a comprehensive review of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act and legislative changes to ensure that there are fair dismissal processes for employees.
Besides achieving these initial goals, Birmingham said it would be crucial to institutionalize new training courses for parliamentarians and staff. The Minister of Finance said that current education and support services should be improved and become “an integral part of the process of onboarding new MPs and new offices created. [post-election] we are therefore not wasting time in terms of the life and culture of the next parliament â.
He said he wanted to act as quickly as possible to implement the overhaul and would work with Labor, Greens and crossover MPs to do what was possible ahead of the election.
Birmingham said toxic culture reform in the workplace should be collaborative, “but everyone told me they wanted us to get on with it, and that has always been our ambition.”
As part of structural reforms, Jenkins recommended the creation of a new office of parliamentary staff and culture to provide centralized human resource support, including policy development, training, advice, support and education.
The review also recommended the establishment of an independent parliamentary standards commission “to ensure that there are independent and consistent responses to reports and complaints of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault” at the scene. parliamentary work.
Birmingham said some of the structural changes would have to wait until after the election. “We are not going to waste time though,” the minister said.
“Our intention is to meet the opposition, the Greens, the independents and to agree on the form of this organization[s] and where it fits within parliamentary departments and architecture – how is it to be legislatedâ¦ get it ready to be introduced as soon as possibleâ¦ in the new parliament.
Former parliamentary staff urged the Morrison government and other political parties to implement the recommendations swiftly, warning that failure to implement the change would trigger a violent backlash from women at the polls.