News Politics Australian Politics Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins to lead culture review of Parliament House ‘culture’ and sex harassment

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins to lead culture review of Parliament House ‘culture’ and sex harassment

Parliament House in Canberra
Gavin Cuddy has lodged a Human Rights Commission complaint against the Commonwealth. Photo: Getty
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A review of Federal Parliament’s workplace culture is likely to result in more staffers raising serious allegations of mistreatment, according to the Opposition.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has been appointed to lead the review, which was prompted by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegation that she was raped at Parliament House in 2019.

Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher said the Opposition was seeking an assurance from Ms Jenkins that current and former staff would be able to raise their concerns confidentially.

“I would expect that if staff are given the opportunity [that] they feel safe and that they feel their information is going to be protected,” she said.

“I would expect, and in a sense I would hope, that we do see more complaints or allegations or concerns or experiences of bullying, sexual harassment, were to come forward through this process.

“I think it would be a lost opportunity if we don’t.

“And I don’t think we can stand here and all honestly say that we don’t think there will be more. Because if we didn’t think there would be more, why would we be having the inquiry?”

Sex Discrimination Commissioner has until July to table her report. Photo: ABC

Ms Jenkins has been asked to report back by November this year, but will provide a “public progress update” in July.

In a statement on Friday, she said the review would hear from current and former parliamentarians, as well as their current and former staffers.

“I urge every staff member to share their experiences with us via a confidential written submission or interview,” Ms Jenkins said.

“Your first-hand experiences will be critical to this review and will build a safer, more equal workplace for everyone.”

Ms Jenkins said the review would not investigate individual matters or allegations.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser said he hoped it would help to restore public confidence in Parliament.

“I had an intern start this week and I said to her, ‘How are you feeling about coming to work in the parliament? How are you feeling? What are your friends saying to you’?” he said.

“Because I wanted to reassure her that it is a safe working environment.

“That it’s a place where people come to do wonderful things to help our community and our country.”