Pressure is now on the Prime Minister and all parliamentarians to urgently address a toxic workplace culture in Parliament House after a much-anticipated review found appalling, disturbing and humiliating accounts of widespread bullying and harassment, as well as allegations of assault.
The Jenkins review, triggered by the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, has found a deficit in leadership and has made 28 recommendations including better leadership training, a better gender balance among parliamentarians through targets and legislative changes to the Members of Parliament (Staff) (MoPs) Act.
The review also recommended clear guidelines setting out expectations and standards around the use of alcohol in Parliament and a new code of conduct for federal MPs and their staff.
"There is now an immense pressure on the prime minister on the government and all parliamentarians to accept and wholeheartedly embrace the recommendations in this report," CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly told The Canberra Times.
"That means that there needs to be funding in place to implement the recommendations around the commissioner, that means there's needs to be genuine bipartisan political commitment to actually change the workplace culture."
The review by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, found one in three people currently working in parliament have experienced some kind of sexual harassment and a further third have experienced bullying.
It also found more than half the people working in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault.
"That figure is unacceptably high," Ms Jenkins said.
In releasing the report on Tuesday, Ms Jenkins thanked Ms Higgins for stepping forward saying "the impact of her bravery is immeasurable."
It's a hostile environment even for women in office. The review found 63 per cent of female parliamentarians experienced sexual harassment, compared with 24 per cent of male peers.
The submissions are a difficult read, describing power imbalances, suicide attempt, mental breakdowns and the case of a male politician sticking his tongue down a woman's throat.
One contributor notes, "It is a man's world and you are reminded of it every day thanks to the looks up and down you get, to the representation in the parliamentary chambers, to the preferential treatment politicians give senior male journalists."
Another submission reads, "Young women, particularly media advisers coming in, particularly the younger women coming in, were like fresh meat and challenges."
The public sector union says the accounts in the Jenkins review are shocking but not surprising as they accord with its own workplace surveys.
"It's a really hard day for lots of people who currently and have previously worked in parliamentary workplaces to see their experiences in that report in black and white," Ms Donnelly said.
"What we need to do and what this report gives us an opportunity to do is set up the right processes for people to make complaints sets up mechanisms for which there can be enforcement."
The review found parliamentary workplaces are exceptional workplaces being challenging, demanding and powerful.
But the great privilege to work in the people's house is leading to unacceptable behaviour.
The Jenkins review recommendations include targets to achieve gender balance among both MPs and staff. There is also a call for targets for First Nations people, people with disability and LGBTIQ+ people.
Scott Morrison has promised to embark on a multi-party response to the review and told his department to provide every necessary resource and support. He also also pointed to reforms recommended by the parallel Foster review into the parliamentary workplace.
"We all share in the ownership of the problems that have stood out in this report," the Prime Minister told reporters.
"But we all share in implementing the solutions as well."
Overall, more than three-quarters of people currently working in parliamentary workplaces have experienced, witnessed or heard about bullying, sexual harassment and/or actual or attempted sexual assault.
Survey results indicate about 1 per cent of people have experienced some form of actual or attempted sexual assault.
The review heard evidence of a lack of accountability, that people who engaged in misconduct were often rewarded for, or in spite of, their behaviour.
One participant told the commission, "there is no risk of MPs getting fired, or otherwise being held accountable for their actions".
The review recommends action on the gender imbalance in parliament, noting there are still more male MPs and Senators than female parliamentarians and there are also more men in senior roles.
There's a real imbalance," Ms Jenkins said.
"The reality is Parliament should match the community if there's one workplace that should represent the community it absolutely is our parliament."
The Jenkins review collated contributions from 1723 people and 33 organisations, including current and former staff, public servants, Comcar drivers, journalists and advisers. There were 935 survey responses, 490 interviews, 302 written submissions and 11 focus groups.
The review process was triggered when Ms Higgins alleged she was raped in a ministerial office in March 2019. Bruce Lehrmann has denied the allegation and pleaded not guilty.
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