News People Brittany Higgins takes swipe at harassment laws

Brittany Higgins takes swipe at harassment laws

brittany higgins
February – Former political staffer Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped in Parliament House. In March, she addressed a major rally outside the building. Photo: Supplied
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Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has taken aim at the Morrison government’s “devastating” failure to back all proposed changes to sexual harassment laws.

The bill establishes sexual harassment as a valid reason for dismissal and clarifying the regime extends to parliament, judges and all levels of government.

People will have two years to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, instead of six months.

But the government knocked back amendments from the opposition, Greens and crossbenchers including 10 days’ universal family violence leave, putting the onus on employers to prevent sexual harassment and bringing in a new and easier to navigate complaints process.

Ms Higgins, who earlier this year went public about her alleged rape by a colleague in a minister’s office, criticised the failure to agree to all of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ recommendations.

“These reforms would have had a real, long-term impact on the lives of all Australian women ensuring safer and more equitable workplaces,” she tweeted.

“It’s devastating to see a real opportunity for positive change be denied for all the working women in this country.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the changes passed on Thursday as being an initial step, with more work to come.

He told parliament other reforms were more complex and required more time, and some were up to state and territory governments or regulators.

“We’ve prioritised these reforms for immediate introduction, recognising that other more complex reforms require further consideration and stakeholder consultation,” he said.

“A number of recommendations need to be carefully considered together because they fundamentally change the core function of the Australian Human Rights Commission.”

Mr Morrison will address a two-day women’s safety summit on Monday after it was delayed and moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.