Sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins will lead an independent inquiry into the culture of Parliament House, the result of shocking allegations of rape in a ministerial office.
The inquiry has been established in response to an allegation by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who said a colleague raped her in the then-defence industry minister’s office in 2019.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised to her for how the matter was handled.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who worked with the Opposition and crossbench to set up the inquiry, said it was long overdue for Parliament House’s treatment of women to change.
“The fact is that the Parliament of Australia should set the standard for the nation,” he said.
“The Parliament of Australia should set the example for others to follow.
“The Parliament of Australia should reflect best practice in the prevention of, and response to, any instances of bullying, sexual harassment, or sexual assault.”
Mr Morrison originally set up a review into standards in the Coalition, to be headed up by MP Celia Hammond.
But crossbench MPs and Labor quickly called for an independent inquiry, leading to this piece of work that will cover all parties.
Ms Higgins called for a comprehensive, independent review into the laws the govern political staffers.
Senator Birmingham said he had consulted with current and former staff, politicians and experts to establish the inquiry.
Ms Jenkins became Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner in 2016, having previously held a similar role in Victoria.
-more to come