Australia to investigate parliament work culture after abuse allegation

Sydney, Australia, Mar 5 (efe-epa).- Australia’s government announced Friday an investigation into parliamentary work culture after a former adviser of the ruling Liberal Party said she was raped by a co-worker inside the premises in 2019.

Senator Simon Birmingham said the investigation would be led by Kate Jenkins, sexual discrimination commissioner, who will deliver her final report in November with recommendations to change practices and parliamentary work culture.

“The Parliament of Australia must set the example to follow … it must reflect best practices for preventing and responding to any level of intimidation, sexual harassment or sexual assault,” Birmingham told reporters in Adelaide.

This investigation comes after former Liberal Party adviser Brittany Higgins said last month she was raped in 2019 by a co-worker in former Defense Industry Minister Linda Reynolds’ office.

Three other unidentified women later also claimed they were victims of assaults or inappropriate contact by the same man, who was fired over the accusations, and another complaint was issued against a Labor Party lawmaker.

Higgins’ complaint also brought to light Friday an accusation against a Canberra Executive Minister, whose identity was unknown at the time, for the alleged rape of a woman 32 years ago in Sydney, when she was 16.

On Wednesday, Attorney-General Christian Porter revealed himself as the minister in question and denied the accusation, adding he would not resign.

New South Wales State Police archived closed the investigation into the accusation this week over lack of evidence given that, among other reasons, the alleged victim did not make a formal statement before committing suicide last year.

But South Australian State Police are still investigating the circumstances of the death of this woman, whose case has prompted requests from various sectors for an independent investigation to be carried out as a political gesture since the legal one is closed.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has backed Porter and refuses to order an independent investigation into the allegations against his prosecutor, has previously only apologized for the way Higgins’ complaint was handled.

On her side, Minister Reynolds, currently in charge of defense, apologized for calling Higgins a “lying cow.”

In addition to the Jenkins investigation, the government has ordered three others concerning the handling of sexual abuse allegations and how much the prime minister’s office knew about Higgins’s complaint and the work culture in the offices of the ruling coalition. EFE-EPA


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