The person tasked with reviewing the culture of Parliament House believes there needs to be a conversation as to whether the justice system meets the needs of victims of harassment.
Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins says it is very difficult for people to come forward with a compliant.
“My role is the Sex Discrimination Act, so that’s where my focus is in a sense,” she told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.
“But I think the conversation that is going on is about whether the justice system, including the police, meet the needs of victims to help us both achieve a victim’s, you know, kind of safety and get the justice that I think we all expect.”
Her comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out an independent inquiry into the alleged historic rape of a woman by Attorney General Christian Porter.
— Australian Human Rights Commission (@AusHumanRights) March 5, 2021
Mr Porter has strenuously denied that he sexually assaulted a woman in 1988. The woman took her own life last year.
The NSW police are no longer investigating the case because there is no admissible evidence.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston agrees with the Prime Minister.
“None of us should be above the law but every one should be judged by the same law,” Senator Ruston told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
But Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has backed calls for an inquiry, saying many of his colleagues want Mr Porter’s “head on a plate”.
“I think in reading Barnaby’s comments it was probably as much out of frustration about the way this has played out in almost a farcical way in the media with everybody sort of making comments,” Senator Ruston said.
Labor, the Greens and some crossbench MPs and senators are also calling for an independent inquiry.
“I would be pretty disappointed if the crossbench sought to hold up important legislation … I think it would reflect very badly on them,” the minister said.
She admits Parliament House has been a very difficult workplace, clouded by speculation in the media in the last three weeks stemming from a separate case of the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins, by a colleague.
As such, she welcomes the inquiry headed by Ms Jenkins into the culture of parliament.
“It is really important that we get some clarity around the processes that are in place in the parliament,” Senator Ruston said.
“It will only serve to make our workplace a better place.”
Ms Jenkins also told Sky News the aim is to build on the national sexual harassment inquiry into what drives harassment.
“It’s more about systemic risk than it is about a few bad blokes misbehaving,” she said.
“We learnt a lot about how to improve the workplace and I think that opens the door for parliament to look at its own particular circumstances and see how that can improve.”
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