The new sex scandal to shake Australia’s government shocked and disgusted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday, and he promised to do more to bring women into politics.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a member of a lawmaker’s staff who was at the core of the current sexual assault charges had been fired for “disgusting and sickening” acts.
Late Monday, the Ten Network announced that many male government employees had created a Facebook Messenger group to post photos and video of sex acts committed in Parliament House, including on female lawmakers’ desks.
Since a former staffer claimed last month that she was raped by a senior colleague in a minister’s office two years ago, perceptions of a toxic atmosphere inside Parliament House have grown. She said she did not go to the police because she was afraid of losing her job.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has since been chastised for refusing to recuse himself from an investigation into allegations that he assaulted a 16-year-old girl 33 years ago. The plaintiff passed away, and police have agreed not to press charges.
“I’m both surprised and disgusted. The Facebook Messenger community is “completely shameful,” Morrison said.
Morrison said, “I was absolutely shocked, as I had been on many occasions over the course of the last month.”
Morrison, who was visibly moved, said it had been “a very painful month” after the staffer made her rape accusation public, and he appreciated the spotlight that events had brought to political culture.
Morrison said, “I want to see more women in this place,” referring to Parliament House.
He said, “I’ve done a lot of things to get more women in this place and I hope to do more.”
Morrison ordered a study of Parliament House workplace culture by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in response to the staffer’s rape claim. In November, the investigation will be completed.
Morrison said that he expects mandatory harassment and bullying training in Parliament House, as well as a “more comprehensive and independent” complaints process for sexually abused employees.
Morrison also stated that he was open to his conservative Liberal Party adopting a minimum quota of female candidates to run in elections in order to raise the number of female legislators.
Female quotas have been in place for years in the center-left opposition Labor Party, but the conservative coalition parties claim that candidates should be selected on merit.