Number of bullying, harassment, assault cases in CPW 'unacceptably high'

Set the Standard report reveals damning statistics, Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlines three steps to address problem

Number of bullying, harassment, assault cases in CPW 'unacceptably high'

More than half of people in the Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces (CPWs) have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment, or actual or attempted sexual assault, a new report has revealed.

The Set the Standard report is the Australian Human Rights Commission's Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces. It sought the contributions of 1,723 people and 33 organisations. It was filed by federal parliament on Tuesday and was authored by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

"Over half (51%) of all people currently in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces (CPWs) have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault in a CPW. That is unacceptably high," Jenkins said in a statement.

"We found current systems and reward structures encourage, tolerate and enable misconduct and processes that are not equipped to prevent or address the consequences of that behaviour," she added.

In particular, the study found that women in CPWs and female parliamentarians have experienced sexual harassment and bullying at a higher rate.

Members of Parliament (Staff) Act experienced the highest levels of bullying, and actual or attempted sexual assault, in CPWs, as well as high levels of sexual harassment.

People who identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTIQ+) community were also found to experience sexual harassment at a higher rate.

In response to the report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that "practical and cultural changes are necessary" to make Parliamentary workplaces safer, outlining three steps to achieve the said goal.

First, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Special Minister of State Ben Morton have been tasked to consult with the opposition, minor parties, and independents for a response to the review. The second step involves a task to the Department of Prime Minister and cabinet to provide resources and support needed by the multi-party approach on the issues.

The third step will see the continuation of existing supports in such cases. This includes the dedicated unit of support staff, independent complaints mechanism, 24-hour support line, and the workplace safety training.

"These important supports will keep running and adapt as necessary as Parliament responds to these recommendations," said Morrison.

"Every single Australian has a right to feel and to be safe at work. However, the report highlights that people, particularly women, in Parliamentary workplaces have experienced bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault," the prime minister also said.

Meanwhile, the report has outlined 28 recommendations to support all parts of parliament to make them comply to standards on Australian workplaces.

"In designing the recommendations, we have balanced the need for clear standards, and an independent complaints body to enforce those standards, with the need to establish professional systems and processes to support people and bring this workplace into line with other Australian workplaces," Jenkins said in a statement.

Michele O'Neil, president of the Australia Council of Trade Unions, said the federal government should implement the recommendations if it really wants real action for women.

"The Prime Minister must do his part by urgently adopting the recommendations and providing the resources required to implement them," O'Neil said in a statement.

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