Political staffers have held a sit-in in the Parliament House room where employees allegedly have sex during work hours, saying the building is a “disgusting” place for women to work.
Tuesday’s protest came as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take more decisive action against sexual misconduct within the Coalition, as more bombshell reports further call his response into question.
A Channel 10 report on Monday alleged Coalition staffers took photos of their genitalia inside the parliament offices of their politician bosses, as well as airing claims staffers regularly brought sex workers inside the building for their MPs.
One employee reportedly captured himself committing a solo sex act on the desk of the female politician he worked for, sending it to a Facebook Messenger group of other staffers.
As revealed by The New Daily on Tuesday, calls went out on private social media groups for staffers to “occupy” the prayer room, which has been used – according to long-standing parliamentary gossip – by employees to engage in sex.
Two dozen staff – women and men – from Labor and the Greens attended, calling for urgent reform in making parliament safer and more comfortable for women. They were there for a short period before returning to work.
One Labor employee, Georgia Tree, admitted it was unusual for staffers to speak publicly about internal affairs, but said women have “had enough”.
“That someone would do that to their own boss is horrific, but that culture is pervasive,” she said.
Ms Tree called for mandatory culture training for all MPs and staffers.
“Since the beginning I’ve been told, ‘keep quiet. If anything happens to you, just shut up because that’s going to be the best thing for your career’,” she said.
Ms Tree, a long-time Labor staffer, said her boss – West Australian MP Madeleine King – backed Tuesday’s action.
TND understands Mr Morrison plans to speak to Coalition staff on Tuesday about the allegations.
TND also understands a large number of Labor and Greens staff will formally lodge a request for the PM to address all staff, and guarantee their safety at work.
How the Coalition plans to ‘do better’
In an emotionally-charged press conference on Tuesday, Mr Morrison vowed to “do better” at handling claims of sexual assault and gender inequality in federal politics, adding the latest allegations of sexual misconduct inside MPs’ offices were “absolutely shameful”.
However, he also came under fire for “outing” an alleged victim of sexual assault, just minutes after saying he wanted to do better and had tried to listen intently to complaints of women.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan said there “must be consequences” for anyone involved, but said the men needed support.
“They have made shocking mistakes that they will pay a heavy price for, but I don’t want to see them ostracised or banished from society,” he told Sky News.
“They need to be supported, too, and hopefully learn from their mistakes and get on with their lives.”
Think of the cleaners
Labor senator Kristina Keneally said the “lewd, disgusting acts” carried out by male staffers were “further evidence of the culture of disrespect women in this building”.
“I feel for every female Coalition MP this morning who must be looking at their desk and wondering, ‘Is this where this happened? Is this in my office?’,” she said.
Senator Keneally pointed out the majority of cleaners at Parliament House were women.
“I shudder to think, the kinds of things they must be confronting, if this is what government male staffers are getting up to behind closed doors,” she said.
She added the Labor Party was not immune to sexual misconduct. Labor is in the process of rolling out an internal complaints process.