EQUAL OPPORTUNITY COMMISSIONER'S INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF HARASSMENT IN THE PARLIAMENT WORKPLACE

I rise in response to the announcement of the tabling of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity's Independent Review of Harassment in the Parliament Workplace. As members will recall, the objectives of the review were listed in the motion that was introduced by me and then passed in the House of Assembly on 12 November 2020. The same objectives were also agreed to in a concurrent motion in the Legislative Council. 

These were that the houses of parliament:

1. Note the prevalence and nature of harassment in the parliamentary workplace, including the perception of workplace culture, the impact of any harassment on individuals and the workplace culture and any contributing factors to the prevalence of harassment.

2. Request that the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity (the commissioner) consider the reporting of harassment in the parliamentary workplace, including existing complaint mechanisms and any cultural and structural barriers, including potential victimisation, to reporting.

3. Request that the commissioner undertake a review into the response to complaints made about harassment in the parliamentary workplace, including legal and policy mechanisms in place governing responses, any sanctions available where harassment is confirmed and the way incidents of harassment have been handled by the parliamentary workplace in the recent past.

4. Request that the commissioner provide recommendations as to:

(a) any action that should be taken to increase awareness as to the impact of harassment and improve culture, including training and the role of leadership in promoting a culture that prevents workplace harassment;

(b) any legislative, regulatory, administrative, legal or policy gaps that should be addressed in the interests of enhancing protection against and providing appropriate responses to harassment; and

(c) other action necessary to address harassment in the parliamentary workplace.

In order to refresh the memory of members for the purposes of the review 'parliamentary workplace' included Parliament House, electorate offices, ministerial offices and other places attended by persons who work in the parliamentary workplace in association with their duties—for example, work travel or social events.

I thank the Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, Ms Emily Strickland, for her efforts and for meeting the reasonably tight time frames imposed. She was due to complete the report by 26 February, and indeed she did. It is now for the government and/or the parliament of course to consider these recommendations ultimately to whomever they are directed and to provide a response. Any recommendations to the government's response will pertain to us, and I will be considering those for advice in the near future.

Everyone has the right to be safe and to be treated with respect in their workplace, whether it is in the parliament or on a building site. Allegations in recent weeks in Canberra have been profoundly disturbing. Allegations of what has occurred in this parliament are distressing to many. While this review and the government's response to the review cannot traverse these allegations, what we as a government and as a parliament can do is put in place measures to ensure the South Australian parliament is a safer workplace for everyone.

I reiterate that my door is always open to those who wish to confidentially discuss any matters of misbehaviour or misconduct in this parliament, and I am confident that there are many leaders in the opposition, and in leadership in this parliament, who would say the same. I encourage anyone in the parliamentary workplace who, in reading the content of this report, may feel upset, distressed or troubled in any way to seek support. This could be in the form of professional counsellors with expertise in dealing with victimisation.

I have prepared a list or table of appropriate services should anyone in the parliamentary workplace wish to access these confidential services, and that is appended to this statement. For the purpose of the record, I indicate they are with Relationships Australia, 1800RESPECT, the Working Women's Centre, ReachOut and MensLine, all of which have accompanying telephone numbers and details of electronic access to those services. I commend them to members should they feel the need.

I ask all members to not only carefully read the report, which I will do, but also carefully consider the recommendations for our consideration in due course. I am happy to table this list.