What will it take for Australia’s political leaders to take the issue of sexual assault in the workplace seriously?

How hard is it to understand?

After much pressure, wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth (and an 18 month delay), the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has agreed to act on (some) of the findings of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in her comprehensive, evidence-based Respect@work report. 

Mr Morrison stated that the Commonwealth Government would act “in full, in-part or in principle” on her findings.

But it seems our political leaders still don’t quite get it.

As part of the Government’s announcement, the Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash, said employers must abide by existing obligations to stamp out sexual harassment.

But, as I told The Sydney Morning Herald, it’s clear the existing health and safety laws are not working because we know that the rates of sexual harassment and even sexual assault in the workplace continue unabated – even, it is alleged, within our National Parliament.

If nothing changes, existing “bullying orders” will remain the same in workplaces and rely on victims of assault to do the reporting. We need to bolster those laws and we need to take the onus off women to do the reporting.

The Prime Minister has proposed some reforms such as making it easier to fire judges and federal politicians who engage in inappropriate conduct in the workplace, which I welcome. 

However, he has not endorsed giving greater investigative powers to a national watchdog. 

Kate Jenkins also recommended that a victim is permitted two years to bring the complaint forward, rather than six-months and that the onus is instead put on employers. 

Again, as I told The Herald, if that recommendation is watered down, very clearly, our politicians will be demonstrating they still do not understand what women around our country so recently marched about.

CLA fully endorses the recommendations made by Kate Jenkins and the Australian Human Rights Commission in the ‘Respect@Work’ Report 2020.