RTHK: Harassment rules to apply to Australian politicians
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 "Respect@Work" 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 government says it hopes to introduce the amended legislation to parliament by June. (AFP)

This story has been published on: 2021-04-08. To contact the author, please use the contact details within the article.

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