Politicians, judges and public servants will be subject to sexual harassment laws like all other Australians.
Currently the Sex Discrimination Act does not apply to MPs, judges and state public servants.
However, it is unclear what consequences MPs will face for sexual harassment.
After all, they are elected to office and therefore cannot be sacked.
Politicians and judges subject to sexual harassment laws
The federal government will amend the Sex Discrimination Act to include politicians, judges and public servants.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins recommended the changes.
She released her [email protected] Report into Workplace Sexual Harassment more than a year ago.
The government has largely ignored it until recent public outrage over the treatment of women in Parliament House.
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Cash lies about consequences for politicians
Today, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash dishonestly suggested the changes will mean politicians will face the same consequences as other workers.
“We will be subject to the same law as anybody else which means we’ll be subject to the same consequences,” Senator Cash said.
However, Cash could not answer how an elected politician will face “the same consequences” considering they are elected to office.
Instead, she suggested they will face consequences at election time when the public has a chance to vote them out.
Changes to Fair Work Act
The government also said it will implement two other recommendations made by Ms Jenkins that involve changes to the Fair Work Act.
The first involves making sexual harassment a valid reason for dismissal.
As a result, it will be easier for an employer to sack a worker without facing a subsequent unfair dismissal claim.
The second involves defining sexual harassment as serious misconduct, which will allow employers to instantly dismiss a worker.
Currently, serious misconduct is defined as theft, fraud, assault, being intoxicated at work and refusing to follow a lawful and reasonable direction.
Better late than never
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan welcomed the government’s late embrace of Ms Jenkins report.
“It took them more than a year and a major cultural reckoning on women’s rights for them to get off their arse, but at least they’ve done it,” he said.
Mr Heffernan believes existing laws already allow the Fair Work Commission to find sexual harassment a valid reason for dismissal.
However, he does support defining sexual harassment as serious misconduct.
“I think we need to call sexual harassment for what it is, which is serious misconduct,” he said.
“It is similar to fraud, it is similar to theft, it is similar to assault, so why don’t we do the right thing and change the regulation to define sexual harassment as serious misconduct.”
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