Leader Anthony Albanese has urged women in the Labor Party to report allegations of serious misconduct against MPs that have been aired in a private Facebook group.
It came as former deputy leader and shadow minister for women Tanya Plibersek admitted the opposition must better protect its staff.
“We haven’t got it right yet, for our own people. We all need to do better,” she said on Monday.
Current and former Labor women have detailed shocking allegations against ALP staffers and politicians in a private Facebook group. One post, first reported by News Corp, claimed a male Labor member had “plied a young woman with drinks until she had no idea what was happening” then “had sex with her when she had no ability to consent”.
Other allegations include complaints of sexual harassment by text, violent behaviour in an office setting, power imbalance, and lewd comments.
None of the allegations have specific names attached to them, and no further details about time or place of the alleged incidents are provided. However, The New Daily understands the reports relate to male staffers and senior politicians.
The post alleges there is a “toxic culture” in parts of Labor, and warns “these men need to know that we will no longer keep their secrets”.
Another former Labor deputy leader, Jenny Macklin, reportedly responded to the claims by saying “I believe you. This is not acceptable and it cannot continue”.
Her message was backed up by Ms Plibersek, as well as MPs Katy Gallagher, Sharon Claydon and Anika Wells.
“We see you and hear you and are truly sorry that you have had these experiences working in the party,” they wrote in a response in the group.
The quartet of senior Labor women wrote they were “committed to making sure that these matters are dealt with seriously and respectfully, if you want to take matters further”.
The story broke on Sunday, just hours before thousands of people flocked to Parliament House for the March For Justice.
Mr Albanese said he was not aware of any specific allegations against specific Labor members.
“I certainly have read what was said, and it is of real concern,” he said in Canberra on Monday.
“There are processes there that are available, and I would encourage women to come forward. I encourage women to speak out. I encourage men to listen to those concerns and to respond.”
Mr Albanese has called for Attorney-General Christian Porter to stand down in the face of allegations of rape, and wants an independent inquiry into that complaint. However, he would not commit to making the same demand of any Labor MPs who might face similar serious allegations.
Labor established new internal processes in recent months to receive and deal with such complaints, on top of standard processes that exist for all Parliament staff. But TND has spoken to numerous Labor staffers who say they are unclear about the processes, and unhappy about how they work.
For instance, reports need to be formally lodged by a complainant, and many staff are hesitant to make even anonymous allegations, fearing repercussions for their careers.
Asked by TND if he would “proactively” investigate the allegations, Mr Albanese responded “it is hard to look into anonymous suggestions”.
“I am not aware of any claims put forward against members of the caucus,” he said.
“I am certainly available to talk to anyone in the caucus who has any complaints.”
However, Mr Albanese said he was aware of an issue in 2020 where a male Labor staffer was sacked over a sexual harassment issue.
Earlier, outside Parliament, Ms Plibersek said change was happening “too slow. it’s not happening fast enough”.
“I have been doing my share to change the culture of the Labor Party for many years. But I don’t feel like I’ve got it right yet either,” she said.
“The fact we’ve got Labor Party staff members coming out in recent days, saying they haven’t felt appropriately supported in their workplace, makes me feel terribly sad and sorry.”
— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) March 13, 2021
Ms Plibersek said “we haven’t got it right for this generation of staff yet”.
“It’s a reminder that we need to keep working, in ourselves and our party, to provide a safe workplace for all of our staff,” she said.
“Everybody should be safe at work. No ifs, no buts, no questions.”
Ms Plibersek conceded Labor had been “working on our culture change for a long time”, noting internal codes of conduct and affirmative action policies.
“What recent revelations remind us, is that it’s not job done. There is still work that needs to be done,” she said.
“Most importantly, anybody who has a complaint to make [should] know we will back them. We will support them. There is nothing wrong with coming forward with something that has happened to you in the workplace. We urge you to come forward.”