Media Releases → 2021

MEDIA RELEASE

Independent review into Commonwealth Parliamentary workplaces

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia

Date: Friday, 5 March 2021

The Government has today announced an independent review (the Review) into Commonwealth Parliamentary workplaces which will be led by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Kate Jenkins.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the aim of the independent review would be to ensure all Commonwealth Parliamentary workplaces are safe and respectful and that our national Parliament reflects best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

“Over the last couple of weeks I have consulted with current and former staff, a number of experts and many Members of Parliament, including the Presiding Officers, Opposition representatives, minor parties and Independent members and Senators, on the scope and process for the review,” Minister Birmingham said.

“This consultation reinforced the importance of a number of principles, including that the review be, as the Prime Minister asked, truly independent and at arm’s length from Government, and to ensure that staff, both current and former can freely participate and have their say. 

“The review must bring about cultural and practical change in our parliamentary workplace. Our national Parliament must set an example and reflect best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“Commissioner Jenkins is an expert in this field, is well qualified and together with the Australian Human Rights Commission has extensive experience in conducing reviews into workplace culture. I have full confidence the review will be conducted with the independence, care, sensitivity, confidentiality and deliberation needed. 

“The participation of staff and former staff will be of paramount importance. I encourage all current and former staff, Parliamentarians and others with experience in Parliamentary workplaces to fully participate in the review, should they wish to do so.”

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins welcomed today’s announcement from Minister Birmingham. 

“The vital cross-party support for this independent review coupled with the opportunity for current and former staff to participate in the Review creates the foundation for long term positive cultural reform to make our Parliament safe and respectful,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission is uniquely positioned to undertake an Independent Review of this nature. The Commission’s experience in undertaking independent, vigorous and confidential cultural reviews is evidenced by our previous work, including Respect@Work, our National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.

“I encourage current and former Parliament House and Ministerial staff to share their experiences with us. Your contributions will build a safer, more respectful workplace for everyone.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission will be provided with additional resources to support Commissioner Jenkins to conduct the review, including the ability for individuals to participate with full confidence that they will be supported and their privacy protected.

The Review will report by November 2021.

ENDS

 

 

Independent Review into the workplaces of Parliamentarians and their staff

Terms of Reference

 

The Government, in consultation with the Presiding Officers, the Opposition, minor parties and independent Members of Parliament has established an Independent Review (Review) into the workplaces of Parliamentarians and their staff (parliamentary workplaces).

The aim of the Review is to ensure all Commonwealth Parliamentary workplaces are safe and respectful and that our national Parliament reflects best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

The Review will consider recommendations to ensure that the people who work in parliamentary workplaces are treated with dignity and respect and have access to clear and effective mechanisms to prevent and address bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
 

Objectives

The objectives of the Review are to:

  • Understand the experiences and the expectations of current and former staff of Commonwealth parliamentarians, current and former Commonwealth parliamentarians, and staff working within the Parliament of Australia with respect to ensuring a safe and respectful workplace;
  • Consider best practice in the enabling of safe and respectful parliamentary workplaces, including national and international approaches;
  • Examine the adequacy, effectiveness, independence, resourcing and awareness of current supports available to enable a safe and respectful workplace, in particular preventing and responding to workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault;
  • In the context of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault, consider:
    • drivers in parliamentary workplaces, including the workplace culture, characteristics and practices that may increase the risk;
    • legislative, cultural, structural or other barriers to reporting incidents in parliamentary workplaces; and
    • current response and reporting mechanisms in parliamentary workplaces;
  • Assess the extent to which current legislation, policies, processes and practices promote or impede safe and respectful workplaces, including the operation of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MOP(S) Act); and
  • Prepare a report setting out findings and recommendations on the matters within the scope of the Review, with a focus on constructive measures that can be implemented to achieve best practice in the prevention and handling of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
     

The Review will be led by Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.

The Review will be conducted in accordance with section 11 of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth).

The Review will provide a public report by November 2021. Commissioner Jenkins may make interim recommendations, and will provide a public progress update in July 2021.

Commissioner Jenkins will publicly detail and implement measures to protect individual privacy and confidentiality of participation in the Review. 

The Review is expected to consult widely, especially with current and former staff. In addition, a number of current or former MOP(S) Act staff will be nominated to act as reference points for Commissioner Jenkins. Commissioner Jenkins may draw upon further independent expertise or advice to assist in the successful delivery of the Review.

The Review will inquire into systemic issues, and for this reason the Review will not be investigating or making findings about individual allegations as part of the inquiry. The Commissioner will provide clear referral pathways to participants who wish to raise matters with the appropriate agency or authority as well as clear referral pathways to counselling or other supports. Additional resources will be provided to ensure anyone participating in the review has access to appropriate support services as needed, including specialist trauma counselling.

 The Australian Human Rights Commission will be provided with additional resources to support Commissioner Jenkins to conduct the review, including the ability for individuals to participate with full confidence that they will be supported and their privacy protected.

 

All Commonwealth agencies will cooperate fully with the Review.

 

[ENDS]