What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 28 June – 4 July

Five Allegations of Sexual Assault Made on WA Mine-Sites In 2021

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has revealed statistics showing that five allegations of sexual assault on WA mine sites have been made this year, with a further six reports of sexual harassment. Mining operators are required to report such workplace incidents to the Department. It comes as WA’s mining organisations called for a parliamentary inquiry into sexual assault and harassment in the industry. This week, BHP launched a sexual assault support hotline for its workers. The service is accessible to direct employees and contractors to provide immediate and confidential support.

Report into NT’s Anti-Corruption Watchdog Reveals Workplace Complaints

A report into the Northern Territory’s anti-corruption watchdog, ICAC, has dismissed claims that the organisation failed to properly manage an internal conflict of interest, but has revealed multiple allegations of workplace issues. The report was released last week by the ICAC Inspector, Bruce McClintock, following a complaint about an allegation of corrupt conduct. While the report found the conflict of interest was appropriately managed, Mr McClintock noted that he had received a ‘series of complaints from employees’ alleging workplace issues. A worker was quoted as describing ‘bullying and intimidation’ and a fear of ‘retribution’ for speaking out. Mr McClintock said those issues had been referred to the Officer of the Commissioner for Public Employment. An ICAC spokesperson said that workplace complaints were taken seriously.

Former MP Julia Banks Details Allegations of Inappropriate Touching and Sexism During Her Time in Politics

In her new book, former Liberal MP Julia Banks has alleged she was subjected to a culture ‘underpinned by sexism and misogyny’ during her time in Parliament. Ms Banks alleges that a Coalition minister slid his hand up her inner thigh during a function at Parliament House. Ms Banks resigned from the Liberal Party a few months after Malcolm Turnball was overthrown as prime minister. She accused Scott Morrison of using a ‘Trumpesque tone’ to dissuade her from announcing that she would not be recontesting her seat. She claims that the Prime Minister’s Office and other Liberal sources sought to leak to the media that she was a ‘weak, over-emotional woman who had not coped with the coup week.’ A spokesperson for Mr Morrison said that he ‘absolutely rejects’ claims about the nature of his conversation with Ms Banks.

SA Magistrate Suspended During Inquiry into Sexual Harassment Allegations

The judicial officer at the centre of sexual harassment allegations has been named by South Australia’s Chief Justice as Magistrate Simon Milazzo. Investigation into complaints about Mr Milazzo began in May after a female lawyer made a complaint in a survey conducted as part of a review into sexual harassment within the South Australian legal profession. Five women have come forward with complaints against the magistrate. Judicial Conduct Commissioner Ann Vanstone QC last month recommended that the Attorney-General appoint a judicial conduct panel to investigate and report on the complaints.. On Thursday, Chief Justice Chris Kourakis said the Governor had, on his advice, suspended Mr Milazzo for the duration of the panel’s enquiry. He stated that while the complaints are still to be investigated by the panel, it is necessary to ‘balance the possible risks to, and apprehensions of, employees against the right of Mr Milazzo to discharge the duties of his office.’ Mr Milazzo will continue to receive his remuneration.

Tasmanian Labor Leader Faces Sexual Harassment Complaint

Tasmanian Labor leader, David O’Byrne, has stepped aside from his role following allegations that he sexually harassed a former employee at the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union in 2007 and 2008. The complainant, who was 22 at the time, alleges that Mr O’Byrne sent inappropriate text messages and twice kissed her without consent outside of work. When she asked him to stop, he allegedly gave her a verbal warning regarding her performance. Mr O’Byrne has publicly apologised to the woman, and in a private letter thanked her for coming forward. He said he thought the kiss and text exchanges were consensual at the time but now realised that it was not the case. The sincerity of his apology was questioned by Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff who claimed Mr O’Byrne’s first response was to threaten the ABC with a legal case. Mr O’Byrne was part of a parliamentary committee examining parliament’s culture but Labor deputy leader Anita Dow will now take his place.

Barrister to Head Probe into Swimming Culture

Swimming Australia has appointed a discrimination and harassment expert to chair an independent panel investigating allegations of bullying and harassment in the sport. Chris Ronalds, SC, has spent decades in the legal profession fighting inequality and played a significant role in the development and passage of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). Ms Ronalds has previously conducted workplace investigations in the corporate and government sectors and has appeared as Counsel Assisting the Commission in numerous ICAC inquiries. In a statement issued by Swimming Australia, Ms Ronalds said she was ‘pleased to have been appointed’ to the role. Ms Ronalds will select two others to work with her on the investigation. Swimming Australia says the panel will be directed to investigating:
• The structures and systems across Australian swimming;
• The behaviour, conduct and practices of people in authority;
• Ways to support the advancement of women in high performance coaching roles;
• How to effectively address issues concerning performance physique in sport; and
• Swimming Australia’s complaints process.