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Report finds widespread sexual harassment in Australian parliament

By Simon Druker
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Report finds widespread sexual harassment in Australian parliament
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on November 22. A report released Tuesday found widespread sexual harassment and bullying in the country's parliament, particularly against female MPs. Photo by Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE


Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Australia's parliament is rife with sexual harassment, including unwanted advances and bullying by MPs, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The 450-page document, titled "Set The Standard" and authored by the Australian Human Rights Commission, was first tasked earlier this year, after a former staffer publicly alleged that she was raped in Parliament House in 2019.

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The report found 63 percent of female members of parliament experienced sexual harassment -- an even higher figure than for political staffers.

An unnamed MP is quoted in the report, saying: "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 point I make with that...[w]as the culture allowed it, encouraged it."

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A total of 1,723 people across 33 organizations were interviewed for the report, which makes 28 recommendations on how to create a safer workplace.

"Women we spoke to told us they felt 'lucky' when they had not directly experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault," said report author Kate Jenkins, the country's Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the findings "appalling and disturbing," The 53-year-old Liberal Party leader said his government will work with all other political parties to improve the situation.

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Morrison has been under fire for his handling of the 2019 parliamentary rape accusation. His government faces an election next year.

In March, the government instituted a 24-hour-a-day hotline to support current and former staff "who have experienced serious incidents in a Commonwealth Parliamentary workplace." The line received over 100 calls between March and June.

Some Australian media have applauded the report's findings, and lauded Jenkins' attempts to fix the "toxic culture."

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Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard also backed the report.

"It's time to change our federal parliament forever," said Gillard, who said she also faced sexism and harassment while serving as PM from 2010 to 2013.

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