Harassment 'prevalent in SA parliament'

Tim DorninAAP
A report found 27 per cent of survey respondents in the SA parliament were sexually harassed.
Camera IconA report found 27 per cent of survey respondents in the SA parliament were sexually harassed.

Sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying are rife in the South Australian parliament, with MPs among the alleged perpetrators, a report has found.

Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Emily Strickland presented her report on Tuesday after being tasked to investigate harassment in the parliamentary workplace.

Her report found 27 per cent of survey respondents reported being sexually harassed.

Six interview participants and two participants who made written submissions described being victims of sexual harassment in the past five years.

All of those alleged incidents involved either members of parliament or staff of MPs as the perpetrators.

"The review confirmed that sexual and discriminatory harassment is prevalent in the parliamentary workplace," Ms Strickland says in her report.

"Allegations of harassment ranged in seriousness and included sexually suggestive and unwelcome comments, indecent exposure and physical assault."

In one case, a man told the review that "if I got in the lift with a certain female MP, I would plant my backside up against the wall of the lift so that I didn't get my backside pinched".

In another instance, a worker described social events "where, you know, young female staff are not comfortable that they have got a male, usually MP, lurking over them".

Ms Strickland also found many people experienced offensive comments and jokes and disrespectful remarks based on race, age and sexist attitudes.

The investigation revealed many incidents were part of a pattern of behaviour that had been ongoing for more than 12 months.

It found the majority of people were unlikely to report incidents, with many fearing repercussions for their careers.

"The parliamentary workplace presents unique challenges," Ms Strickland said.

"Its employment structure is disparate, constitutional structures and protections must be guarded and, of course, politics influences decision-making and interactions.

"That said, there is clearly change that can and should be made that will improve culture and practice in the parliamentary workplace without impinging on the sovereignty of parliament."

She made 16 recommendations including a code of conduct for elected members and the introduction of a code of behaviour across the parliamentary workforce along with a robust complaints process and sanctions.

Training for MPs and staff should also be provided to increase the awareness of sexual harassment.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman the government and the parliament would consider the recommendations and provide a response.

"Everyone has a right to be safe and be treated with respect in their workplace, whether it's in the parliament or on a building site," she said.

"Allegations of what has occurred in this parliament are distressing to many."

Ms Chapman said the parliament must put in place measures to ensure it was a safer workplace for everyone.

She said her door was always open to people who wanted to confidentially discuss any matters of misbehaviour.

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