News Nationals MP lodges complaint of Parliament House harassment
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Nationals MP lodges complaint of Parliament House harassment

Dr Webster has lodged a complaint with the National Party over a man who allegedly harassed her in Parliament House.
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The federal government has been rocked by yet another harassment claim, as scrutiny over Parliament’s workplace culture continues.

Victorian Nationals MP Anne Webster has lodged a complaint against a man who allegedly harassed her in Parliament House last week.

The former social worker told the ABC she was shocked at the treatment, especially given the recent scrutiny of inappropriate behaviour towards women in her workplace.

“My first thought was, you’ve got to be kidding me,” she said.

“I mean, really? I was dumbfounded by this behaviour.”

Dr Webster said she did not want to go into details of what happened or who did it, but she has lodged a complaint with the National Party and its leader Michael McCormack.

“I’ve since spoken to the person and he assures me it won’t happen again,” she said.

“We need to work very hard at changing the culture of what is acceptable.”

‘We can change the culture we’re all tired of’

The Mallee MP now knows first hand how challenging it can be to navigate the complaints process.

“Even it to call it a ‘complaints process’, it does imply the person who has raised the issue is the problem, we’re the complainer, and I don’t think that’s helpful,” she said.

“These issues need to be raised, we need to be able to have mature conversations, we need to be able to work through with support so that we can change the culture we’re all tired of.”

She wants to use her experience to help guide change as she liaises with past and present Nationals staffers and politicians, as part of the inquiry into parliament’s workplace culture.

“The role the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack gave me was to be the go-to person for staff who’ve exited now, MPs and senators should they want to raise issues, so they had a person to speak to,” she said.

“He implemented that quickly as soon as it became clear we needed to do more than hope it’ll go away.”

Is drug and alcohol testing at Parliament a good idea?

The inquiry headed by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins was commissioned after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins went public with allegations she was raped in a ministerial office.

One issue it’s expected to canvas is whether parliamentarians should face alcohol and drug tests.

The idea is gathering steam, with prominent female Liberal backbenchers Katie Allen and Sarah Henderson agreeing it could help as part of wider workplace cultural reforms at Parliament House.

Shadow finance minister Katy Gallagher believes it should be considered as part of the review.

“Drug and alcohol testing is a common feature of many workplaces now, across Australia where it has become almost standard practice for operating, so it’s not as if it’s an unusual thing to be asking,” she said.

“Kate Jenkins is well-placed, her team need to have a look at absolutely every aspect of Parliament House.”

Should Andrew Laming go now?

As parliament’s workplace culture is reviewed, the federal government has also come under fire for its handling of allegations levelled at Liberal MP Andrew Laming.

Dr Laming is on leave and won’t contest the next election, after Nine News aired allegations he had used Facebook to accuse one woman of misappropriating funds from a charity organisation she worked at, which she denies.

He also allegedly harassed another woman and her husband online.

He will seek counselling and empathy training at his own expense but is expected to remain a member of the federal government for the rest of the term.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Sunday rejected suggestions Dr Laming should quit immediately, which would leave the Coalition without a majority in the lower house.

“He was elected by the representatives and constituents of his community to support them in the Parliament to affect policies that advance their interest,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“He’s going to take some time to have this additional support and various sessions he’s going to be engaged in and then he’ll turn to Parliament in budget week.”

However, Senator Gallagher said he needed to leave politics straight away.

“He brings the parliament into disrepute, his behaviour has been disgraceful and I don’t see any other way of dealing with this other than for him to go,” she said.

“It’s just crazy to think this man can behave in this way, admit to behaving in this way, and for the government to continue to accept his vote.

“It’s not acceptable, and Dr Laming should go.”

-ABC