'One in three' Australian parliament staff sexually harassed

'One in three' Australian parliament staff sexually harassed

Former government staffer Brittany Higgins speaks before protesters during a rally against sexual violence in Canberra on March 15, 2021.
Former government staffer Brittany Higgins speaks before protesters during a rally against sexual violence in Canberra on March 15, 2021.

SYDNEY: Sexual harassment and bullying are widespread in Australia's parliament, affecting both lawmakers and staff, a high-profile inquiry into the institution's "sexist culture" has found.

After a seven-month investigation, a government-backed report on Tuesday said one in three people currently working at parliament "have experienced some form of sexual harassment while working there".

That included 63% of the country's female parliamentarians.

"Aspiring male politicians who thought nothing of, in one case, picking you up, kissing you on the lips, lifting you up, touching you, pats on the bottom, comments about appearance, you know, the usual... the culture allowed it," said one of the report's 1,700 interviewees.

The report made 28 recommendations, including a formal statement of acknowledgement by political leaders, targets to increase gender diversity and "a proactive focus on safety and wellbeing".

It was launched amid widespread outrage at the alleged rape of parliamentary staffer Brittany Higgins inside a minister's office, after a night out with conservative Liberal Party colleagues.

Her allegations -- which are still before the court -- fuelled nationwide demonstrations and demands for reform.

Higgins on Tuesday welcomed the report and thanked "the many brave people who shared their stories which contributed to this review".

"I hope all sides of politics not only commit to but implement these recommendations in full," she said in a statement sent via the Australian National University, where she is now a visiting fellow.

Greens' Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described the report as a "damning expose of the sexist culture and harassment in politics".

"The statistics and comments are shocking, but for many women here they are not surprising and ring true to our own experiences," she said.

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