What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 9 November 2020 – 15 November 2020

ABC Exposes Christian Porter and Alan Tudge’s Inappropriate Behaviour

An ABC’s Four Corners report has exposed the bedroom misdeeds of Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter and Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge. The program exposed that Tudge engaged in an extramarital affair with his press secretary and Porter allegedly engaged in a pattern of sleazy behaviour dating back to university including sexually inappropriate comments and behaviour. While Tudge has apologised for his 2017 affair with former staffer Rachelle Miller, Christian Porter has denied all accusations of any wrongdoing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded to the allegations, saying the ministers did not breach the Ministerial code of conduct and declined to sack them. While the Prime Minister said the claims were ‘very important,’ he said the issue had already been dealt with under Malcolm Turnbull’s ban on ministers having sex with staff. ‘Those matters were addressed by my predecessor at the time and they relate to issues that predated that ministerial standard, and as a result, he dealt with them at that time,’ Mr Morrison said.

Rachelle Miller has lodged a 14-page formal complaint, claiming Tudge engaged in workplace bullying and intimidation that left her ‘anxious’, ‘afraid’ and ‘constantly afraid of losing [her] job.’ Miller, who had an affair with Tudge while working as a staffer in his office, said his behaviour was ‘belittling’ and ‘humiliating.’ In her complaint to the Department of Finance, Rachelle Miller describes numerous occasions where Mr Tudge was extremely critical of her work, often in public and in front of other staff members. While Miller has not made any allegations of sexual harassment, she has called for a systemic change to create a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to bullying in parliament.

Stats Show Female Members of FWC Presided Over Only 4% of Full Bench Matters

New research has found that female members of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) have been overlooked from presiding over important Full Bench matters. The research found that female FWC deputy presidents have presided over only 4% of the 240 Full Bench matters to date, despite comprising more than one-third (35%) of all presidents. The research also found that of the FWC’s eight female deputy presidents, five have not presided over a single Full Bench matter in 2020.

Public Sector Women in NSW Liked Working from Home During COVID-19

The Public Service Association’s ‘What Women Want’ survey has found that COVID-19 working-from-home arrangements have benefitted women in the New South Wales public sector. The survey of over 5,000 public servants found that working from home during COVID-19 allowed female respondents to get more work done and balance family responsibilities. However, the survey also identified bullying and harassment as key issues that persist despite remote working arrangements. Public Service Australia general secretary Stewart Little said ‘[i]t’s clear the women of NSW’s public service want to see this flexibility continue.’

Nationals MP Speaks Out About Bullying Within the Party

Western Australia Nationals MP and former deputy leader of three years, Jacqui Boydell, has called out her own party for ‘slut-shaming.’ Ms Boydell spoke to Parliament on Tuesday about ‘bullying, threats and intimidation’ from inside the Nationals Party. She said that the party exhibits a ‘culture of silence’ and that throughout her career she has personally witnessed unacceptable behaviour such as bullying and harassment. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ms Boydell said that ‘slut-shaming and personal slurs is an easy out for men when women come forward and take a stance that they don’t agree with.’ Nationals WA acting state director Jack Mallick said in a statement he would work with the organisation’s president to address Ms Boydell’s concerns. He added that ‘[t]he Nationals WA do not accept inappropriate behaviour, bullying or intimidatory behaviour in our organisation.’

SA Attorney General Motioning for Workplace Behaviour Enquiry in SA Parliament

South Australia’s Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has moved a motion to commence a review into harassment in the South Australian Parliament. Conducted by the Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Emily Strickland, the review will systematically examine workplace culture and practices in the halls of South Australian Parliament. Commissioner Strickland’s inquiry will look at the Parliament’s ‘complaint mechanisms, barriers to reporting harassment, sanctions against perpetrators and legal and policy changes to help protect people from harassment within the workplace.’ SA Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, in moving the motion, said that ‘[e]veryone should feel safe and supported when going to work, and the Parliament is no different.’ ‘It is evident this matter needs to come to a conclusion, and I look forward to reading the recommendations made by the Acting Equal Opportunities Commissioner when the review is complete in the New Year,’ she added.

Will JobSeeker Payments to Employers for Young Employees Discriminate Against Older Employees?

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the new JobMaker youth wage subsidy, claiming it does not discriminate against or place older workers at risk of unemployment. The JobMaker scheme, which aims to encourage businesses to hire younger workers, was passed last week by Federal Parliament. The scheme offers employers $200 a week for each new staff member aged 16 to 29 where the person hired has been receiving the JobSeeker or other support payments. However, the scheme has been met with staunch criticism, mainly over concerns it will discriminate against older Australians looking for work. But Treasurer Frydenberg is confident there are major protections in place to protect the jobs of older workers and deter discrimination. ‘There is significant legislative protections in place in terms of the legislation that went through the Parliament last night,’ he said.

Tasmanian WorkCover Committed to Training Projects Related to Sexual Harassment in the Agricultural Sector

In response to an increase in injury rates and sexual harassment compensation claims in the agricultural sector, WorkCover Tasmania has committed to funding three training projects. The projects aim to increase employee’s safety within the agricultural industry.

Ambulance Victoria Engaged Vic EOHRC to Investigate Gender Based Discrimination and Bullying

Ambulance Victoria has engaged the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of widespread sex discrimination and gender-based bullying. These allegations reflect a broader pattern of poor physical and mental health among Australian paramedics. Research at Flinders University found that, compared with other professions, paramedics have far higher rates of mental health disorders, workplace violence, workplace injuries, fatigue, sleep disorders and suicide. According to Ambulance Victoria, a paramedic is assaulted in Victoria every 50 hours. Another study led by Malcolm Boyle found many paramedic students undertaking clinical placements reported experiencing workplace violence, including sexual harassment.

Gender Harassment Prolific for Women in Male Dominated Industries

The University of Sydney has found that women working in male-dominated industries encounter daily gender harassment. The ‘I’ll never be one of the boys’ paper examined gender harassment of women working as pilots and automotive tradespeople. The researchers found that ‘women in these occupations face a daily barrage of belittling jokes and demeaning comments from colleagues, managers and customers.’

Australia Post Complaints Comprised 8% total Public Interest Disclosure Complaints

The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s 2019-20 annual report revealed that the integrity agency oversaw 29 public interest disclosures raised against Australia Post. Representing approximately 8 per cent of Ombudsman’s matters, the disclosures included 72 kinds of misconduct. While the report doesn’t detail the findings, Australia Post has since responded by undertaking disciplinary action against offenders as well as further staff training on ethics, discrimination, bullying and harassment.

QLD hospital Controversy Over Investigation of Senior Manager

Queensland’s biggest hospital is facing controversy and investigation following its handling of wide-spread bullying claims against a senior manager. The Manager allegedly nicknamed an employee ‘vinegar tits.’