What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 5 – 11 July

Tasmanian Labor Leader Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Investigation

David Byrne has resigned as Tasmanian Labor leader following an allegation that he sexually harassed a junior union employee when she worked for him in 2007 and 2008. In a statement on Sunday, Mr O’Byrne said that the “allegations raised will be dealt with through a confidential process initiated by the [Labor] state secretary.” A second, separate complaint sent to Labor has alleged that the Tasmanian branch has a broader “serious problem with sexual harassment.” Mr O’Byrne will stay on as the Member for Franklin.

Australian Minerals Council Sets Down Code to Stamp Out Sexual Harassment

The Australian Minerals Council (AMC) has set out a code for its members to eliminate sexual harassment after several incidents in Western Australia. The framework has been laid down for the over 80 miner and service provider members, who will be required to confirm their commitment to adopting the code. The code includes prevention measures that firms must agree to undertake, including awareness and education, work environment and leadership, and response measures to support and protect people who report. In a statement, the MCA said ‘sexual harassment has profound physical, emotional and psychological impacts on those affected. It is unacceptable, against the law and must be eliminated from our industry’s culture and workplaces’.

Law Firm Flooded with Complaints Against Sony Music Australia From Former Employees

More than 40 Sony Music Australia employees have contacted a Sydney law firm seeking advice about taking action against the record label since allegations of a toxic workplace culture emerged in June. A class action against the company has not been ruled out and questions remain about whether proposed litigation will remain in Australia or be broadened to include Sony Music Entertainment’s global head office in New York. The complaints, which are aimed broadly at the workplace culture rather than specific individuals, include allegations of sexual harassment at work events, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and unfair treatment of women in the workplace. They span two decades.

Kate Sullivan Comes Forward with Parliamentary Sexual Assault Allegation

The Honourable Kate Sullivan, Australia’s second longest-serving woman, has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a male colleague in his office one night while Senate was in session. Inspired by Brittany Higgins, Mrs Sullivan decided to speak to the ABC about her experience. She claims that while sharing a glass of port in her colleague’s office, the man grabbed her and attempted to molest her before she escaped. Mrs Sullivan has declined to name the former colleague out of respect for his family but says the incident left her ‘in shock’. She says that she noticed the demeanour of her male colleagues towards her changed after the incident and she became worried that gossip may reach then-leader, Andrew Peacock. Mrs Sullivan chose to tell Mr Peacock herself, but he did not believe her. She describes it as ‘one of the most devastating experiences of my life’.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Resigns Over Sexualised Misconduct

A Federal Circuit Court judge, Joe Harman, has stepped down after findings that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour. Mr Harman, who was appointed in 2010, was based in the court’s Parramatta registry and mainly handled family law cases. He was accused of sexual misconduct towards two women (a court employee and a law student) from 2015 onwards, which included lewd emails and unwelcome hugs. After receiving the allegations in September, the Federal Circuit Court established a committee composed of three former judges. The committee reported its findings to Chief Justice William Alstergren in April, who announced that he would detail what action he would take on July 1. Mr Harman gave his notice on June 30, avoiding a likely parliamentary inquiry which could have seen him be the first federal judge to be dismissed from office.

The Federal Circuit Court said that the conduct committee had found that in each case the allegations were ‘substantiated and that the Judge had engaged in conduct towards each complainant that was sexualised in nature and otherwise inappropriate’. They further found that Mr Harman’s medical condition and workload could not justify or excuse the inappropriate conduct. It recommended that the complaints be referred to Attorney-General Michaelia Cash with a view to establishing the process that could have led to his dismissal had it proceeded.

Chief Justice Alstergren accepted all of the findings of the committee, stating that the conduct is of ‘great concern to the Court as is the harm caused to the young women. The court is ashamed that such conduct could especially by someone of such standing and responsibility as a serving Judge and in circumstances where he held a position of trust in respect to each of the complainants.’

Prosecutor Advises AFP on Brittany Higgins Case

The Australian Capital Territory’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, has passed on his advice about Brittany Higgin’s alleged rape in Parliament House to the Australian Federal Police. Mr Drumgold received a brief of evidence about Ms Higgin’s allegations last month. A spokesperson for the DPP said Mr Drumgold passed on his advice to the AFP on Monday 28 June. They said that the content of the advice is subject to Legal Professional Privilege and cannot be disclosed.