Brittany Higgins has responded to new steps being taken after a bombshell report into parliament’s culture.
Brittany Higgins has labelled new moves to implement recommendations from a bombshell report into toxic workplace culture in parliament as an “encouraging first step”.
A new specialist task-force – which includes Minister for Women Marise Payne and Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek – met for the first time on Thursday to discuss the implementation of 28 recommendations from the Jenkins review.
The review was sparked by horrific allegations that Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer, was raped at Parliament House.
It uncovered that one in three people employed in parliamentary workplaces had experienced some form of sexual harassment, which the Prime Minister labelled “appalling and distressing”.
The first recommendation from the report was for parliamentary leaders to give a statement of acknowledgment that recognised people’s experiences of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The task-force discussed this statement’s delivery at the meeting ahead of parliament sitting next week.
“This is an encouraging first step in making the systemic change necessary to ensure a safer and more equitable Parliament House,” Ms Higgins said in a statement.
“I commend the government on establishing a nonpartisan leadership task-force with the hope they will seek to implement all the recommendations set out in the Jenkins Review over the next two years.”
The government also intends to introduce legislative changes recommended by the Jenkins report that confirm people employed by parliament are protected by the fair work, age discrimination and disability discrimination laws.
It would also confirm that members or senators who employ staff must abide by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
It comes as Scott Morrison said the nation’s education minister – who stepped aside over abuse allegations last year – would not return to the role before parliament resumed.
Mr Morrison on Friday said the government was still “working through” the process of responding to a different inquiry that was tasked with investigating Alan Tudge’s relationship with his former staffer Rachelle Miller.
The results were due to be finalised and handed to the Prime Minister’s department last Friday.
“We are working through this process now,” he told reporters at a press conference in Victoria.
He was then asked if Mr Tudge would be reinstated as education minister by the time parliament returned on Tuesday.
“We won’t have that resolved by the time,” he said.
Mr Tudge stood aside as minister last year after Mr Morrison ordered an inquiry be conducted by respected investigator Dr Vivienne Thom to examine allegations of emotional and physical abuse made by Ms Miller.
Both Mr Tudge and Ms Miller have admitted to an extramarital affair in 2017 but Mr Tudge has strongly denied any mistreatment.
Ms Miller declined to take part in the investigation, saying it was not truly independent.
In a lengthy statement released on Sunday, she said that she did not agree with the terms of reference, which forbade the inquiry from investigating any allegations that could be deemed criminal.
“The government has not listened to the concerns I expressed and has refused to negotiate the terms of reference,” she said.
“The sanitisation of the inquiry in this way all but guarantees the government the positive view of history in relation to these events which suits its agenda, its view of the world and its immediate political interests.”
In December, Ms Miller alleged Mr Tudge had been emotionally and, in one instance, physically abusive towards her.