House debates

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Questions without Notice

National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

2:41 pm

Photo of Daniel MulinoDaniel Mulino (Fraser, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Women: how will the Albanese Labor government's commitment to implement all of the Respect@Work recommendations support women's economic equality?

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Fraser for asking this extremely important question. I know that you have a deep commitment to respectful relationships and respectful workplaces, so thank you. I want to say also that the Albanese Labor government takes this issue extremely seriously—as we all do. It is without question that everyone has a right to be safe and respected in their workplace, and that is a commitment we should all have. The fact that some workplaces have not been safe or respectful for so many Australians, particularly women, is completely, absolutely unacceptable. It seems as outrageous both inside and outside of this place.

The Respect@Work report found that two in five women had experienced sexual harassment in the past five years. It is not a laughing matter. Two in five in the last five years is an absolutely appallingly high number, and we all know that that must change. That is why we, as a government, will be introducing a bill to this House to implement seven legislative changes recommended by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. It will have proper oversight. This is a key part of our election commitment to implement the recommendations of the Respect@Work report, and we will do it in full. The passage of this bill will move Australia forward in our efforts to prevent workplace sexual harassment from happening in the first place. Workplace sexual harassment isn't just a safety issue; it's an economic one, and it is all of our business. The social and emotional cost of doing nothing costs the Australian economy not $3.8 million but $3.8 billion a year in loss of productivity, staff turnover and absenteeism.

This legislation means that workplaces must take responsible and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible. I am proud to be a member of the government that will be bringing this legislation forward. It builds on things like reintroducing gender-responsive budgeting and developing a national strategy to achieve gender equality, and it is what the Albanese Labor government stands for.

2:44 pm

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I want to join the opposition to the fine words of the minister in her contribution. This is a bipartisan piece of work, and I want to thank the government for their engagement with us, in particular with Senators Payne and Birmingham and others. This is a body of work that's gone on for a period of time, and we'll continue to provide that support. There is zero tolerance for workplaces where people can't be treated with respect and where sexual harassment might take place. It's true in this building, and it's true across the country. We will work together as a parliament in a bipartisan way to make sure that we have a safer and more respectful workplace so that people can enjoy their rights without any hesitation or any condition whatsoever. We've been having this ongoing discussion with the government for a number of months now, and we will continue that work, because it's important, as I say, for this parliament and across broader society.