Sexual harassment and discrimination are rife in South Australia’s Parliament, according to a new report.
The report by the state’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner makes 16 recommendations in order to address the problems.
Sexual harassment and discrimination rife in SA Parliament
An alleged sexual harassment incident at a 2019 Christmas party sparked the review into workplace culture in state Parliament.
200 staff subsequently provided statements to the Commission as part of its inquiry.
One quarter (27 percent) reported experiencing sexual harassment in the past five years.
Meanwhile, one third (32 percent) reported being subjected to offensive comments and jokes about their age, sex or race.
Staff also described unwelcome touching, hugging and kissing at the hands of MPs or their staffers.
One woman said a male colleague sexually harassed her at a work function.
“He put his hand up my skirt, really far up my skirt.”
Others accused male colleagues of “grabbing themselves” in addition to “indecently touching themselves”.
Men also said they experienced sexual harassment at Parliament House.
“If I got in the lift with a certain female MP, I would plant my backside up against the wall of the lift so that I didn’t get my backside pinched.”
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan described the behaviour as “completely unacceptable”.
He says the very nature of politics means elected officials can never be held to account for inappropriate conduct.
“Parliament is a completely distorted environment because the parliamentarians can’t lose their job,” he said.
“These people can get away with it, because all that happens is that the Department of Finance writes cheques to pay off complainants to make these problems go away.
“As a result, the politicians are free from consequence.”
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman committed to implementing the first three of the 16 recommendations made by the report.
Specifically, setting up a centralised and dedicated HR department where staff can raise concerns or complaints about inappropriate conduct.
She told Parliament:
“What we as a government and a parliament can do is put in place measures to ensure the South Australian Parliament is a safer workplace for everyone.”