Written by Staff Writer by Jake Elman, CNN
Prostitution, pornographic material, casual sex and groping are commonplace in the Australian Parliament, according to a massive new report by the The Australian government that is expected to dent morale among MPs and future campaigns against sexual harassment.
In the report, the terms of reference say “lounges” are often described as “the back room” in Parliament. Liza Bateley, a former staffer of a Senator who was “intimidated,” told the publication that “unwholesome sex toys, magazines and movies” were common during election campaigns and Parliament.
Calls for reforms
The government revealed the report just before Parliament for the first time Wednesday, announcing it would use the report to create laws to eliminate harassment.
The report features 64 recommendations, some of which echo calls for reform from CNN since the allegations emerged in October. For example, under-age workers should be barred from Parliament, the report says.
It also recommends that parliamentarians disclose complaints and indicate an expectation of confidentiality. And it calls for whistleblower legislation.
‘By the book’
Lawyer Michael Harmer was the only staffer who decided to report inappropriate behavior by a Liberal Party backbencher, but chose not to name him, after calling him a “by-the-book” bully and pushing for greater protections for female staffers.
Now a Liberal Party MP, Harmer previously said he regrets not going further in his complaint but declined to name the harasser.
“Sexual harassment is a national problem, it’s a global problem, and if we’ve got none to report to you, how are we going to improve the culture?” Harmer told CNN in October.
Harmer is not alone. In the days after the New York Times published its first exposé detailing years of sexual misconduct allegations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, former Variety Editor-in-Chief, Chuck Stone, told CNN’s Richard Quest that “revelations like the Harvey Weinstein thing I think are an opening of new opportunities.”
He said that “in most cases the perpetrator is trying to create a more orderly environment and have a more unruly environment.”
Stone added: “I’d put this in the category of ‘action speaks louder than words’… I think (Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct) has raised the temperature of the discussion. I think it’s very likely it’s a start, but I think it’ll continue to go up, it’s like a class war”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the revelations a “ticking time bomb” that threatened to undermine the work of parliamentarians, and during question time Thursday, said “where a workplace like Parliament House is concerned, it’s clear that there is a pervasive culture in which people use it as a platform, a playground, and it’s about protecting their own careers, not about the whole community.”
Labor said it would hold an emergency meeting next week, to consider the recommendations. Turnbull later suggested that changes to sexual harassment policies may need to be introduced to Parliament before the 2020 election.