TRANSCRIPT - Labor’s bullying and harassment policy and alleged assault in Parliament House.
25 February 2021
SHARON CLAYDON MEMBER FOR NEWCASTLE: Good morning my name’s Sharon Claydon, Federal Member for Newcastle, but I’m here in my capacity as chair of Labor’s national working group on sexual harassment and bullying policies. This is a working group that was commissioned by the leader, Anthony Albanese, he tasked the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party to undertake this review last year and this committee has been doing an extensive process of consultation and submitting a large body of work to the National Executive tomorrow.
That is a culmination of months of examination of our existing policy and making sure that this set of policies going forward has been reviewed in light of best practice and international examples. It has been taking some guides from international Labor organisations, what’s been happening in the New Zealand Parliament and indeed the UK Parliament. This is a sign of Labor’s commitment to ongoing improvements in our party processes.
The scope of this review has been enormous. These policies cover not just people like myself, elected officials of the Labor party, and paid staff, but also unpaid staff, people who are in our campaigns, people who are contracted to do work for the Labor party, at our branch meetings, at formal and informal events. The scope is enormous and is a very strong sign of Labor’s commitment to an ongoing process of review and ensuring that we as an organisation, as a major political party, as an alternative Government in this nation have the very best policies in terms of ensuring that we have safe, not just work places, but every aspect of our organisation is a safe space for people to work in and be part of.
JOURNALIST: You might have seen the Victorian Government proposing and enforceable code of conduct that could actually see MPs sacked if they engage in sexual harassment. Have you examined maybe introducing something like that into the MOPS Act in Federal Parliament? At the moment there’s no recourse for employees.
CLAYDON: The work that Labor is submitting to the National Executive comprises of four documents. One will be a national code of conduct, there will be a set of policy documents underneath that code of conduct that will inform the code of conduct. They are detailed policies around the prevention of and response to sexual harassment, policies around bullying and harassment and another around the complaints handling process.
The Victorian government has done a lot of work over the years and is probably leading the way in state and territory jurisdictions in ensuring their workplaces are safe and free of sexual harassment and bullying, as every workplace in Australia should be.
The other part of your question about the MOPS work, that is going to be very much a part of one of these reviews the Prime Minister has announced.
It’s still very unclear to me, you know we had four reviews going from the Government at one point. I asked the Prime Minister a question on this this week in Parliament – was the internal review of the Liberal Party process still on the table? It seems to me that that’s now been rolled into this parliamentary review.
On day one the leader Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek, our Shadow Minister for Women, made very clear Labor’s expectations of a review into Parliament House. This is a workplace that should be a model employer. There are some 5,000 people that work in this building on a sitting day. It would be ludicrous to be in a situation where you would have a Liberal Party Code of Conduct, a Labor Party code of conduct, maybe one from the Greens, the crossbench. That would be a ludicrous situation that everybody has to go through different rules in order to get remedied. It is essential that this parliament conducts an independent review. Certainly my conversations with staff in this building, they want certainty that they would have access to an independent body that sat way outside of the Department of Finance in order to resolve, to seek advice, to get satisfactory resolutions and to be assured of the confidentiality that they would expect in those processes. We have backed in all of those calls for this to be independent, that people should have access to specialised support services that are trauma informed, that are victim focussed. All of these things that are currently missing. That is a huge systemic problem for the Australian parliament as a workplace.
JOURNALIST: It’s not emerged that at least 3 ministers knew about Britney Higgin’s allegation before the Prime Minister said he was alerted. Peter Dutton knew at least four days before the Prime Minister’s office was tipped off. What is your reaction to that? Is the Prime Minister being kept in the dark by his own team?
CLAYDON: Again I’ve asked a question in Parliament this week, as have a number of my colleagues. It is unfathomable to me that the Prime Minister wouldn’t know, and if he didn’t know then that indicates a really disturbing problem that sits inside his office. Why is it that none of these senior minister’s thought that the reported rape of a member of staff in a minister’s office wasn’t something that they would want to share with the Prime Minister? It is unfathomable and I think the Australian people are asking the same question. How could this be true?