What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 17 – 23 September 2018

Another Female MP Complains of Internal Bullying
A federal Liberal Party MP has announced she will quit politics in the upcoming election due to in-party bullying. Ann Sudmalis used her parliamentary privilege to denounce NSW state MP, Gareth Ward, for bullying and waging a campaign against her to prevent her re-endorsement. She said that over the past six years, he had engaged in ‘bullying, betrayal and backstabbing’. In response, Mr Ward claimed that Ms Sudmalis merely exaggerated claims to cover her dwindling party support. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that in light of the comments, new processes were needed for internal complaints of misconduct. Kelly O’Dwyer, the Minister for Women, agreed with Mr Morrison’s suggestion, but said that any new processes would need to be independent of party members.

Former Inpex Employee Alleges Toxic Culture of Bullying
A former employee of the Inpex Ichthys LNG project in the Northern Territory has denounced its workplace culture. The woman, who sought to be referred to as Sophie, worked on the project for two years. She claimed that there was a toxic culture of bullying and intimidation, and that employees who voiced their concerns would be ‘shut down immediately’. However, a spokesperson for Inpex affirmed that the ‘safety and wellbeing of people working on the… project is our number one priority’.

New Australian Gender Equality Council Launched
The Australian Gender Equality Council has been launched to usher in a new era of women’s rights. The Council was formed from an amalgamation of 17 industry women’s groups to more efficiently use their shared resources. Among the constituent groups are Women in Aviation, Women in Banking and Finance, Girls Schools Australia and Australian Women Lawyers.

Comcare Appeals Compensation for Workplace Bullying
Comcare will appeal a case against a former ABC staffer who is seeking compensation for workplace bullying. This is the third time that she and Comcare will appear before the Federal Court in what has been a seemingly never-ending cycle of appeals to courts and tribunals. Peta Martin has been fighting to be compensated for her bullying-induced breakdown since 2012. In this particular appeal, Comcare is arguing that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Deputy President, James Constance, wrongly found that Comcare had conceded Ms Martin suffered an injury. Additionally, the insurer claims that the tribunal did not make a finding as to whether the injury resulted in ‘death, incapacity from work or impairment’. Ms Martin’s lawyer, Georgia Plunkett-Scott, said that ‘it’s taken in excess of eight judges and tribunal members to interpret the law, surely that demonstrates that reform of the Comcare scheme is required’.

FOI Documents from ACT Health Reveal Series of Bullying Investigations

New documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws revealed that during the 2017-18 financial year, a series of employees at ACT Health were formally investigated for bullying and misconduct. According to the documents, ten employees were formally investigated, three of whom were under inquiry for alleged workplace bullying and harassment. Three were dismissed as a result of the investigations. This information comes in light of ACT Health recently announcing an independent review into its workplace culture. The ACT Health Minister, Meegan Fitzharris, said the health system had seen dramatic improvements since March when a conscious effort to improve its culture began. The number of investigations did fall since the previous 2016-17 financial year, in which there were 22 cases of investigated misconduct.

New AFL Gender Diversity Policy Questioned
Experts in the field have criticised the AFL’s new Gender Diversity Policy. The policy, which affects trans-women and non-binary footballers, requires applicants to supply performance reports, hormonal data and growth charts to the AFL in order to be eligible to play. According to Liam Elphick, a discrimination law researcher from UWA, the stringent requirements will turn aspiring trans-female and non-binary players away, or force them to remain in lower state leagues. Indeed, the announcement of the policy prompted transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey to withdraw from the AFLW draft. She claimed it was ‘not worth’ it. While discrimination in sports based on gender identity is unlawful, there is an exemption, which allows the AFL to lawfully exclude where there is evidence of a competitive advantage from biological attributes.