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Question: Harassment in the Parliamentary Workplace

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Attorney-General, representing the Special Minister of State, on the topic of implementation of the equal opportunity commissioner's recommendations on sexual harassment in the parliamentary workplace.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: A review of harassment in the South Australian parliament workplace by the then equal opportunity commissioner was requested by both houses of parliament on 12 November 2020. A report was laid before each house of parliament on 26 February 2021— over three years ago. That review yielded several recommendations aimed at the prevention and appropriate handling of sexual and discriminatory harassment in the parliamentary workplace, noting, and I quote the then acting commissioner:

There are some fundamental gaps in policy, training and complaints practices that, if addressed, will make a significant difference in preventing and responding to harassment. However, sexual and discriminatory harassment will only be eliminated through concerted efforts to create cultural change. In that regard, strong leadership in driving workplace standards and an emphasis on systems that shift responsibility away from victims and place the onus on leaders to respond effectively is crucial.

She went on to say in her report:

Imperative to achieving cultural change is effective and consistent leadership on sexual and discriminatory harassment. The Commission accordingly calls on the Houses to implement a number of recommendations including reviewing standing orders to allow breast and bottling feeding in the Chamber, adopting a motion declaring that sexual and discriminatory harassment is not tolerated in the parliamentary workplace—

both of which I am pleased have been actioned—

and implementing a formal cultural change framework for gender equality, such as Our Watch’s Workplace Equality and Respect Standards or seeking White Ribbon Australia Workplace Accreditation.

Which, of course, has not yet been implemented, despite acting equal opportunity commissioner Strickland noting:

Prompt and comprehensive implementation of all of the recommendations in this Report will demonstrate that leadership across the parliamentary workplace is committed to a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for all.

I draw the minister's attention to the correspondence received by the Parliamentary Committee on Occupational Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation, which has been received and published by that committee, dated 27 March. In response to a question from the committee as to when recommendation No. 6(c) of the EO commissioner's report would be implemented—specifically, the Our Watch Workplace Equality and Respect Standards program—the Clerk has written:

I can advise you that a comprehensive program of works is currently underway to give full effect to the recommendations of the EOC report, which includes a suite of HR policies and procedures. It is anticipated that the development and dissemination of the policies and procedures referred to will be completed by June 2024. Upon completion of the policies and procedures which have been identified as a top priority, work will then commence on implementing the Our Watch's Workplace Equality and Respect Standards program.

It takes a simple email to Our Watch to start the process. Their resources are available free to any workplace or local government or government or parliament which seeks them. They would have been able to roll out this program within months, but here we are three years on without this program even being contemplated by the so-called leadership of this parliament. So my question to the new Special Minister of State is: will he take responsibility for ensuring that all of the recommendations of the equal opportunity commissioner's report are implemented with appropriate haste?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for her question. The new Special Minister of State, as we talked about yesterday in this chamber, has responsibility for the Electoral Act being committed to him and electoral reform, and also particular responsibility for the operations of parliament.

The particular report, the EO review of harassment in the parliamentary workplace, spans both the operations of parliament and the general legal framework in which society, including parliament, operates. There were a number of recommendations that, to their credit, the former government had initiated. There are other recommendations that are within the purview of parliament, and the honourable member has talked about recommendation 6(c) that seeks for the parliamentary workplace to be accredited as a White Ribbon workplace or implementing Our Watch's Workplace Equality and Respect Standards.

I am happy to go away and talk to my new colleague, the Special Minister of State, and between the two of us liaise with officers of parliament and bring back to the honourable member a reply.

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