Recommendation 1: The Government must adopt and immediately implement all 55 recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s [email protected]: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, in particular [email protected] recommendations 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 25 and 28.
Recommendation 2: The Government commit to undertake a holistic inquiry of the workings of the Commonwealth Parliament, examining what a transparent, representative, accessible and accountable parliament is in the context of the modern Australian society. This should include a focus on the nexus between a good parliament and a good workplace within 18 months of the Independent Review’s findings being handed down. The Government must draw on the lessons of the UK Parliament, including The Good Parliament Report and its 43 recommendations to improve representativeness and inclusiveness and to better enable parliamentarians to be more effective in their work individually and collectively.
Recommendation 3: Given the systemic nature of bullying, sexual harassment and assault in Parliamentary workplaces, the Government must set behavioural norms, declaring such conduct unacceptable, and raise awareness of the individual and institutional impacts and consequences for perpetrators. Change and renewal require an acknowledgement of Parliament’s historical failure to effectively address and prevent sexual harassment and bullying. Asymmetric power imbalance is a recognised key driver of workplace sexual harassment and bullying and must be addressed in a risk mitigation plan developed in collaboration with workers and their union.
Recommendation 4: The CPSU recommends the development and implementation of a behavioural code of conduct for all parliamentarians. It must explicitly set out appropriate workplace behaviours and prohibit sexual harassment and sex-based harassment, bullying and harassment and discrimination. Parliament should establish a joint select committee to develop a Code of Conduct for parliamentarians and that process should allow all parliamentarians the opportunity to input, contributing to the cultural change. Additionally, the joint select committee should seek broader input by calling for submissions from the public, including current and former staff who have worked in Parliament. Accountability is critical to instil employee and public confidence in the system, culture and leadership. Alleged breaches of the code must be subject to independent investigation and sanction procedures separate from any political influence or impartiality. A range of appropriate sanctions must be imposed for breaches of the code including restriction of staffing entitlements, travel privileges, committee membership and suspension.
Recommendation 5: An enforceable sexual harassment policy must be developed and implemented in consultation with workers and the union that is based on current best practice including policy content, development, communication and implementation.
Recommendation 6: Parliamentarians and MaPS must commit to a collaborative risk mitigation approach which actively engages workers and their union to prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment and bullying. This must include a plan to address risks associated with media and social media scrutiny and alcohol in work-related functions. Measures, such as an annual anonymous employee engagement survey, exit interviews, EAP and SIT trend reports, should be implemented. There should be coded line reporting on sexual harassment and bullying as well as other forms of workplace violence. De-identified data should be shared with health and safety representatives, harassment contact officers and the union for the purpose of better understanding and mitigating sexual harassment and bullying harms. Success of such an approach is dependent on the employer placing a high level of importance on workplace health and safety.
Recommendation 7: The Government must establish an independent human resources body responsible for overseeing employment practices in parliamentarian offices and better supporting MoP(S) Act employees. The independent human resources body must be properly resourced and with appropriate authority to manage, and hold parliamentarians accountable to, the implementation of good employment practices including through restrictions on parliamentarian entitlements as appropriate.
Recommendation 8: The Government must better recognise and support union delegates in undertaking their representative roles and responsibilities in MoP(S) workplaces. It must commit to the implementation of agreed and enforceable union delegate facilities such as reasonable paid time to discuss employment and WHS matters with workers and to seek union advice; access to reasonable paid time to acquire knowledge and competencies in industrial relations; and access to notice boards in prominent locations in all MoP(S) workplaces to share union information including on WHS matters.
Recommendation 9: The Government must commit resources to better recognise and develop the capability and professionalisation of the MoP(S) workforce. The current lack of clarity of job requirements, tailored career pathways and low accessibility and transparency regarding professional development opportunities must be addressed in partnership with workers and their union.
Recommendation 10: The CPSU supports the development and implementation of a MoP(S) Gender Equality Action Plan and Diversity Equality Action Plan to assist in improving gender and diversity equality and preventing sexual harassment. Plans must be consulted with employees, the union and workplace diversity networks.
Recommendation 11: The CPSU endorses the implementation of the Parliamentary Support 24/7 Line staffed by professional trained in trauma-informed care to support staff and parliamentarians. The Support Line must be adaptive to needs as it is a new and emerging measure. A review of the effectiveness of the Parliamentary Support 24/7 line should be conducted 6 months after its commencement and seek direct feedback from employees.
Recommendation 12: The CPSU commends the Foster Review for its recognition of the need for an independent mechanism for reporting of sexual and sex-based harassment, sexual assault and bullying incidents. It is critical the mechanism is not labelled and/ or limited to ‘serious incidents’ as this may exclude a large number of complaints from being made. The independent mechanism must be extended to cover former employees beyond the current parliament and to other Commonwealth employees working in APH precinct and parliamentary workplaces, such as Department of Parliamentary Services, Department of the Senate, Department of the House of Representatives and Comcar.
Recommendation 13: The CPSU does not consider the Foster Review’s proposed sanction model in which Presiding Officers are given sole oversight as being completely independent of the Government. Rather there must be opportunity for multi-party involvement in the sanction process as it relates to parliamentarians. The CPSU recommends Presiding Officers work with the Privileges Committee where confidentiality is ensured and there is multi-party representation.
Recommendation 14: The CPSU endorses the victim-centric and trauma-informed approach adopted by the Foster Review. The model must be adaptive to needs with a view to continuous improvement informed by best practice. The CPSU recommends closer oversight and ‘check ins’ with complainants in relation to their experience of victimisation including changes to work arrangements to limit contact with alleged perpetrator where appropriate.
Recommendation 15: There must be implementation of mandatory, regular, face to face education and training on sexual harassment and discrimination for all parliamentarians, MoP(S) Act senior staff, and staff. The education and training program must be delivered by independent experts consistent with best practice measures advocated by the AHRC, VEOHRC and other leading authorities. Not only must this training be mandatory, it must also be comprehensive and deal with these serious matters in appropriate depth. Parliamentarians, senior staff and managers must be provided with additional education and training with respect to inclusive leadership and their role in embedding a culture to prevent workplace sexual harassment and sex-based harassment and discrimination. They must be equipped with the skills necessary to support staff impacted by these harms.
Recommendation 16: There must be sufficient resources for the appointment of individual(s) with specific expertise in diversity and equity and prevention of sexual harassment with responsibilities to also report on relevant priority measures and progress, and identify areas for further action.
Recommendation 17: The CPSU recommends the development and implementation of an annual anonymous survey to understand the experiences of MoP(S) Act employees and monitor progress on prevention of workplace sexual harassment, sex-based harassment and bullying. The full findings must be available to all MoP(S) employees subject to confidentiality and privacy requirements.
Recommendation 18: To better understand the nature of workplace sexual harassment and inform the development and implementation of sexual harassment prevention and response initiatives information must be gathered using a variety of methods. Recommended options include informal discussions with workers; exit interviews; employment metrics such as rates of staff attrition and absenteeism, EAP and SIT counselling service trends; anonymous and annual staff engagement surveys; independent complaints mechanism. There must also be measurement and evaluation for reporting, and the under reporting of incidents against national averages.
Recommendation 19: The Independent Review should feed into any review of the Foster Review’s proposed independent complaint mechanism. There must be a review of the mechanism at 6-, 12- and 18-month intervals while it is being bedded down. There must be an audit of the Independent Inquiry’s recommendations and the effectiveness of measures implemented within 2 years of the Independent Review being handed down. The audit report must be available to the public.