Recent rape allegations sparked nationwide protests in Australia, with tens of thousands of women marching to call for gender equality and an end to sexual violence Photo: AFP/File
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Australia says politicians no longer exempt from sexual harassment rules

40 Comments

Australian politicians will no longer be exempt from rules against sexual harassment at work, the conservative government announced Thursday as it tries to quell public anger over parliamentary sex abuse scandals.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government would overhaul the country's sexual discrimination laws to make members of parliament, judges and public servants accountable for harassing colleagues in the workplace.

"It's about getting everyone on as much of a playing field as possible," he told reporters in Canberra.

MPs, judges and public servants are currently exempt from anti-harassment rules that apply to other Australian workplaces, though they can still face criminal prosecution for sexual assault.

The move was in response to a "[email protected]" report -- handed down more than a year ago following a national inquiry into sexual harassment -- and comes just weeks after sexual abuse allegations rocked Australia's halls of power.

A young ex-staffer in Morrison's Liberal Party recently went public with allegations she was raped by a colleague in parliament in 2019, while a senior minister was forced to deny raping a 16-year-old when they were both students in the 1980s.

Critics said the cases, and the government's apparent initial reluctance to act, have highlighted a "toxic" and sexist culture in Australia's parliament.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash -- who last week replaced the rape-accused minister in the government's top legal role -- said other proposed legislative changes would include classifying sexual harassment at work as "serious misconduct" and making it valid grounds for dismissal.

The government also plans to extend the period in which a victim can report an incident from six months to two years, she added.

The [email protected] report was drawn up by the government's own sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, and Morrison has been under growing criticism for failing to act on its 55 recommendations since it was first submitted in January 2020.

The prime minister rejected the criticism on Thursday, saying his government had already committed to funding several recommendations it felt were high priority.

"Last year, we were very focused on those very urgent needs to protect women at a time when they were very vulnerable during Covid," he said.

"We put the additional resources in and now we're in a position to address these more systemic and longer-term issues which are very important and I'm pleased we're able to do that today."

The rape allegations sparked nationwide protests, with tens of thousands of women taking to the streets to call for gender equality and an end to sexual violence.

In recent weeks, Morrison's coalition government has been rocked by a litany of new sexual abuse and harassment complaints -- from a staff member photographed masturbating on a female politician's desk, to a state MP being accused of raping a sex worker, to another lawmaker apologizing for harassing women online.

A media blitz aimed at showing Morrison's empathy with women has only added to the furore through a series of missteps, and he eventually demoted two top ministers in an attempt to draw a line under the scandals.

The government says it hopes to introduce the amended legislation to parliament by June.

© 2021 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
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Now this is great news! Happy to know that Australia's politicians are being held to the laws that everyone has to follow.

"Australia says politicians no longer exempt from sexual harassment rules"

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Great news indeed. Nobody, male or female should have to work under such circumstances and nobody, male or female should be exempt from these rules either.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Good. Such poor behavior by public officials should be rooted out. But please clearly define sexual harassment in a manner that is acceptable to both men and women and cannot be misunderstood, so that clearly illegal behavior is discouraged and punished but mere unwelcome but normal advances are not.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Why on earth would anyone at work have been exempt from sexual harassment rules in the workplace? A horribly written law.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

So until now they were allowed??

My god , and people say australia isa model country!!

Shame on them

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Why would they ever have been excluded from then?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Nobody should be exempted from this in the first place. A crime is a crime.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

These are the same people supposedly protecting the country from a virus. This will end well.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

These are the same people supposedly protecting the country from a virus. This will end well.

You mean politicians? Australian ones are doing better at protecting from the virus (which you don’t believe is serious, so why fake concern about it?) than many other countries, and better or worse than some others regarding sexual assault.

This is a good step, far too late but a good step nevertheless.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I doubted these allegations but I didn't know then about this exemption. Now I do, I err on the side of guilt

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Exempt ? What else are they exempt from that we don't know about, why are these people so entitled?

Time to make them all accountable , this is disgusting !

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Australian politicians will no longer be exempt from rules against sexual harassment at work

Why were they exempt in the first place!?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Questions: Would someone telling me my legs look great in a new dress be called sexual harassment? Would complimenting me on a new haircut be sexual harassment?

There are some lines that need to be drawn.

In America you can't compliment a male, female nor any other made up genders. That is so sad in my opinion. We have lost touch with humanity. Compliments get the endorphins running and that is human.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Would someone telling me my legs look great in a new dress be called sexual harassment?

ihavegreatlegs - that rings a bell, japangirl!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Questions: Would someone telling me my legs look great in a new dress be called sexual harassment? 

Depends. Is it your similar age female friend or your much older male boss telling you? Quite a difference.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Questions: Would someone telling me my legs look great in a new dress be called sexual harassment? Would complimenting me on a new haircut be sexual harassment?

It depends. It's very odd that people opposed to sexual assault are always like, "OH, so NOW this thing I do that isn't harassment is WRONG!?". I mean, not necessarily. If I smack or pinch my girlfriend's butt, she wouldn't consider it to be sexual harassment. If you did, she would.

An inability to understand context is a real weakness of the conservative and the liberal.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Sorry, I should have said: "opposed to sexual assault legislation".

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I guess I'm old-fashioned, because if I think a woman I know - even slightly - looks nice in a new dress or with a different hairstyle, my first thought is to compliment her. And at my age, if that means being called a misogynist or dirty old man, I don't give a rat's as*. These 'woke' society issues are destroying male-female relations.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I guess I'm old-fashioned, because if I think a woman I know - even slightly - looks nice in a new dress or with a different hairstyle, my first thought is to compliment her. And at my age, if that means being called a misogynist or dirty old man, I don't give a rat's as*. These 'woke' society issues are destroying male-female relations.

Nobody said compliments are bad, but context is important as has been said. Saying someone’s new dress looks nice is not the same as saying their legs look great in it. But you know this. No need to feel victimised.

Nobody is destroying your interactions between male-female relations except yourself and how you interact everyday. That’s always been the case, nothing ‘woke’ about it.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

 If I smack or pinch my girlfriend's butt, she wouldn't consider it to be sexual harassment. If you did, she would.

Are you 100% sure about this?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Nobody is destroying your interactions between male-female relations except yourself and how you interact everyday. That’s always been the case, nothing ‘woke’ about it.

Well stated.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Are you 100% sure about this?

No, because I don’t know who “you” as any JT poster is, and I also cannot be entirely sure of my SO’s mind, since it is entirely independent of mine. I can, however, make a highly educated guess based on the conversations we’ve had and the experiences we’ve shared. Were i to give it a percentage? I dunno, 99? 98? I don’t think it’s important.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

No, because I don’t know who “you” as any JT poster is,

and I also cannot be entirely sure of my SO’s mind, since it is entirely independent of mine. I can, however, make a highly educated guess based on the conversations we’ve had and the experiences we’ve shared. Were i to give it a percentage? I dunno, 99? 98? I don’t think it’s important.

I was clearly referring to you, and making a bad joke. I should have made the joke part more apparent.

That said, I appreciate your response.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I seriously want to know why they were exempt to being with? A politician is a very powerful person and should be held to a higher standard than others. Having immunity in something like that would create glorified predators.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Welcome to the 21 century Australia.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@ himari Yamada

Welcome to the 21st century Australia.

You can't be serious. As bad as this is you should take a look in your own backyard and drag yourself out of the 19th century.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Australia. Hardly a utopian state. A regressive culture. Keeping the Man Box intact.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Wow! I'm surprised to learn they were ever exempt in the first place! Crazy!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Even the kings and aristocracy of other countries (Eg France in the revolution) figured out that they were not above the law.

Why did it take Australia to 2021 to figure this out?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

...wait a minute...They WERE exempt??

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I was clearly referring to you, and making a bad joke. I should have made the joke part more apparent. 

That said, I appreciate your response.

No worries, friend! I didn’t have the wisdom to see your joke. I’ll try to be be more aware next time!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Questions: Would someone telling me my legs look great in a new dress be called sexual harassment? Would complimenting me on a new haircut be sexual harassment?

There are some lines that need to be drawn.

In America you can't compliment a male, female nor any other made up genders. That is so sad in my opinion. We have lost touch with humanity. Compliments get the endorphins running and that is human.

Oy vey...I’ll lay this out as succinctly as possible: if you like having someone compliment your legs, that’s fine. But just because you like it, doesn’t mean other people do. And just because you like it, doesn’t mean you have a right to violate someone else’s boundaries or that they are being irrational or overly ‘woke’. There is a world of difference between ‘I like your new blouse’ and ‘that new blouse really makes your tits look great’. No one is saying you can’t compliment people, but we are saying you might have to pause and be considerate in how you go about it. I know that’s a horribly huge ask of some people.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Also, if you want to avoid accusations of sexual harassment, try complimenting a woman on something other than her looks. ‘Hey, really good job thinking on your feet. You really saved our skin.’ has never landed anyone in a lawsuit.

Intelligence, compassion, honesty, talent, skill, resourcefulness. There are a million different things you can compliment a woman on that doesn’t run the risk of being perceived as creepy, and I’m sure women would appreciate being valued for more than just their appearance

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One vital indicator of the health of a democratic society is the no brainer that everyone understands yet is loath to admit: the number of politicians, businessmen and other moneyed folk serving time for their crimes. The shockingly low number has always been a scandal and a stain on our democracies, but a taboo topic that the bought and sold MSM will never own up to. The decision not to indict Tiger Woods for his dangerous and reckless driving is just another recent, egregious example of a privileged person, entitled by mere wealth and fame who is exempt from the laws that we lesser mortals must obey.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I cannot understand why anyone would be exempt from criminal law but it's common the world over for politicians to not be held to the same standard as the common citizen they makes laws for. Biden digitally penetrated one of his own female employees at the workplace during working hours and was never held accountable. He refuses to even turn over her complaint to the public hiding behind the university he gave his papers to. Same for Obamacare - members of Congress are exempt from it. There are usually always two sets of rules - those for rulers and those that are ruled.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Also, if you want to avoid accusations of sexual harassment, try complimenting a woman on something other than her looks. ‘Hey, really good job thinking on your feet. You really saved our skin.’ has never landed anyone in a lawsuit.

That's good advice. Or, if you want to compliment her appearance, choose something she did, rather than something she is. So "I like the way you did your hair today, it suits you well", rather than "you have nice eyes". The former is an action she took, the latter is something she was born with.

This is good advice for women in general by the way, not just women you're working with.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

 The shockingly low number has always been a scandal and a stain on our democracies, but a taboo topic that the bought and sold MSM will never own up to. The decision not to indict Tiger Woods for his dangerous and reckless driving is just another recent, egregious example of a privileged person, entitled by mere wealth and fame who is exempt from the laws that we lesser mortals must obey.

British legal tradition used by the US and many other nations places the burden of proof on the accuser and requires proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which generally means a unanimous jury verdict, to convict. It is a deliberately high standard designed to protect innocence from being punished by mistake. When you feel outrage that this or that white collar executive "got away with it" take a step back and ask exactly what laws were broken and can anyone really prove it. In the case of Tiger Woods it is not clear that he didn't confuse the accelerator and brake pedals. That happens frequently and it now believed to be the cause of the "unintended acceleration" scandal that affected Audi in the early 1990s. Think you are smashing the brake pedal to stop but you are really standing on the gas. My own big feet occasionally depress both pedals in certain cars and I am conscious of the problem and thus careful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wow, do they know it's 2021.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

No worries, friend! I didn’t have the wisdom to see your joke. I’ll try to be be more aware next time!

To be fair, humor doesn’t come through writing like it does speaking.

I have to reiterate that I appreciate your reasonableness support n posting; it’s a rarity on the internet.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A nephew is visiting Australia now and he is shocked at how racist people are.

When I visited Australia a couple of decades ago I was shocked at both how many men treated woman and equally shocked at how many woman wanted to be treated. It is an over-exaggeration but it seemed to me that the cultural norms were than many woman wanted to be treated badly as long as they got flowers after. Men seemed to be treating woman how many woman wanted to be treated. I met a lot of fantastic people in Australia who honestly believed in equality but they were all from Europe.

Glad to see Australian woman may finally joining the 20th century and demanding more than a rough punch and flowers from a man.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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