Australia

More allegations of wrongdoing likely to be exposed by parliament’s workplace review, Labor warns

A pending review into Parliament House workplace culture is likely to reveal more allegations of bullying and sexual misconduct, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher says.

The review to be conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has been agreed to by the prime minister and opposition leader following weeks of intense pressure over former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegations.

Ms Higgins said last month she was raped in 2019 on a sofa in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office.

“I don’t think we can stand here and in all honestly say that we don’t think there will be more, because if we didn’t think there would be more, why would we be having the inquiry?” Senator Gallagher told reporters on Saturday.

“I would hope that we do see more complaints or allegations or concerns or experiences of bullying, sexual harassment, whatever, come forward during this process. It would be a lost opportunity if we don’t.”

Labor’s finance spokeswoman also criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a lack of leadership regarding the rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter, which date back to when he was 17.

Neither Mr Morrison nor Mr Porter had personally read the dossier of allegations against the latter, and yet had decided there was no need for an inquiry, she said.

The only way for Mr Porter to clear his name was to have an independent process, she said.

“This will not go away. The prime minister needs to take action.”

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce on Saturday passionately reiterated his view that an independent inquiry was needed but said many of his colleagues wanted Mr Porter’s “head on a plate”.

An independent inquiry would offer a more “dignified” alternative to the “inquisition” by press and the Opposition, otherwise the allegations would hang over Mr Porter’s “remarkable career”, the New England MP wrote on Facebook.

“Christian knows many in the opposition and some on his own side don’t want the truth unless it comes with his head on a plate. They just want his scalp,” he said.

“They will ultimately get what they want unless he can refer them to a deliberation on the allegation, beyond reasonable questions of efficacy.”

He linked his views on the matter to 2018 allegations against himself that contributed to his resignation as deputy prime minister. Mr Joyce has vehemently denied the allegations.

“I am at odds with my coalition colleagues but I don’t want Christian to end up sitting at the back of the chamber under the exit sign where my colleagues have kindly placed me,” he said.

Mr Porter is on mental health leave this week and has strongly denied raping a woman when they were both teenagers in 1988.

Mr Morrison is resisting calls from lawyers, women’s advocates, human rights groups, Labor and crossbench MPs for an independent inquiry, saying there was “no alternative process” available to him.

He has backed Mr Porter’s decision to stay put as first law officer of the land.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.  

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