ALP staff’s fury at new harassment policy

 

Labor staff are "furious" and "upset" they were not properly consulted on a new party policy for handling workplace bullying and sexual harassment, with one woman saying she would "not come forward in a million years" under the rules.

The proposed policy, which is due to go to the ALP National Executive today on Friday, was developed via consultation with a working group, unions and a Workplace Health and Safety Committee. However many staff are concerned they were not given a chance to directly provide feedback or be involved in its creation.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese spoke at an International Women’s Day breakfast in Canberra on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Labor leader Anthony Albanese spoke at an International Women’s Day breakfast in Canberra on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

A leaked early draft of the document, seen by The Daily Telegraph, urges complainants to submit, in writing, details of their allegations, their name and the name of the person they are accusing.

The draft also only mentions sexual harassment, not assault or rape.

One staffer who had seen the leaked document said they believed the policy "lacks confidentiality protection" and "clear consequences" for breaches.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, several staffers in the Labor Party said they felt excluded from the process and were unhappy they had not been able to see any drafts.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has sparked a cultural reckoning in Parliament House after alleging she was raped in a minister’s office.
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has sparked a cultural reckoning in Parliament House after alleging she was raped in a minister’s office.

One female staffer said a "growing number" of her colleagues were frustrated and upset with the process, particularly in the wake of the party's internal response to the impact of the allegations made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.

"The silence from the top on this is deafening," she said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and other frontbenchers have publicly addressed the issue, however one male staffer said he was "disappointed" there had not been a co-ordinated internal all-staff meeting or memo to "check in" after Ms Higgins went public.

"It's been really tough, and while there's definitely been those check-ins within individual offices, that's been down to those good leaders taking action."

The Daily Telegraph understands a message was sent to all staff on Wednesday advising of additional supports through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in the wake of Ms Higgins' claims, however one female staff said they expected "more of a response" than that.

Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon, who chairs Labor's National Executive Working Group, which developed the policy, said the policies being taken to the Labor National Executive would "play a critical role in changing the culture that exists in Parliament House as well as applying to the Party more broadly".

"These documents will continue to be updated and will evolve as implementation of the policies occur," she said.

"Staff will continue to be consulted with and invited to participate in the implementation of the policies."

Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon has defended the process behind Labor’s draft harassment policy Picture: AAP Image/Alan Porritt
Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon has defended the process behind Labor’s draft harassment policy Picture: AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Ms Claydon said the scope of the review had been "enormous".

"These policies cover not just people like myself, elected officials of the Labor Party, and paid staff, but also unpaid staff, people who are in our campaigns, people who are contracted to do work for the Labor Party, at our branch meetings, at formal and informal events," she said.

"That is a culmination of months of examination of our existing policy and making sure that this set of policies going forward has been reviewed in light of best practice and international examples."

Two weeks after Mr Higgins went to the media to allege she was raped in the Defence Minister's office, the Australian Federal Police boss has issued a warning to potential victims against going public with claims.

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw has issued a warning against going to the media with sexual assault allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw has issued a warning against going to the media with sexual assault allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw on Thursday wrote a letter to be distributed to all politicians at the request of Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlining the "importance" of "timely referrals of allegations". v

The letter advised MPs to report allegations of sexual assault "without delay", while also respecting the "rights and privacy of the victim".

"Failure to report alleged criminal behaviour in this manner, or choosing to communicate or disseminate allegations via other means, such as through the media or third parties, risks prejudicing any subsequent police investigation," Mr Kershaw said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at an International Women’s Day breakfast. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at an International Women’s Day breakfast. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

He went on to say that if processes were not adhered to, "there is a real risk that any alternative actions by individuals may lead to obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice."

 

On Wednesday former Liberal staffer Ms Higgins made a formal complaint to the AFP alleging she had been raped in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in 2019.

Ms Higgins went public with her allegations the week before.

In a speech at an International Women's Day breakfast, Mr Morrison said it had been a "traumatic week" for people who worked. in parliament.

 

 

Originally published as ALP staff's fury at new harassment policy


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