TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECT: Jenkins Review.
JOURNALIST: How disappointed in this report are you? And what do you think struck you the most from it?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: I'm disappointed, of course because after so many years, I really thought we made it a bit better for young women staff in this building and I feel sorry and sad that I haven't yet, but am I surprised? Not really. I mean, 40 per cent of Australian women have been sexually harassed at work in the last five years and in so many ways parliament's no different to that, perhaps even worse. I think now that we have the report from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and her staff, we're very grateful to her for her work, I think it's important that we take the time to talk to our staff, to look at the recommendations very closely with the view to making sure that this is a safe workplace for everyone who works here. And further, I'd say that it's not just Parliament that has to be made better, it's every Australian workplace. Whether you're a parliamentarian, or a journalist, or a staffer, or a cleaner, or a librarian, or cafeteria worker, or a naval cadet, or a medical intern, or a factory worker, or a bus driver - you deserve to be safe at work.
JOURNALIST: You just said that you're not really surprised by this. The Prime Minister yesterday also said that he wasn't particularly surprised by the findings. Why then do you think, and this has been going on for decades, why do you think then that it has taken so long for this report to be commissioned?
PLIBERSEK: We have been working to improve the culture here. One of the biggest changes I've seen in my time in Canberra is the fact that Labor is now 50 per cent female representation, that has definitely improved the culture amongst my colleagues, but it is a frustratingly slow process. So a few years ago, we updated our own internal Labor Party complaints mechanisms to give greater protections to our staff and other people that work with the Labor Party. We wrote to the Government at that time and asked for greater protections, some improvements were made at that time, but not nearly enough.
JOURNALIST: You mention there quotas - the report also discusses the possibility of using quotas to better the culture within this place, not just for parliamentarians but also for other staff in all sorts of sectors. Do you think that is something that should be considered for the rest of parliament?
PLIBERSEK: I think the biggest change I've seen in my time here is that the Labor Party is now at 50 per cent female representation, it absolutely changes culture.
JOURNALIST: Alcohol is also mentioned within the report. Do you think that we need to be changing how we interact on a daily basis and how much alcohol is consumed in this place, is that something that you think also needs to change?
PLIBERSEK: I think alcohol can be an exacerbating factor, but the root cause of bad behaviour is gender inequality, inequality in power relationships, the feeling that many staff have that they could be dismissed at the whim of their employer - those sorts of power imbalances really are at the heart of the problem.
JOURNALIST: The Liberal Party, well the Government, says that they'll be working with the Labor Party and with the Greens and other crossbenchers to implement this, is the Labor Party set on enforcing all 28 recommendations?
PLIBERSEK: We're very grateful to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner for the work. We're grateful to the people who have made submissions, for their honesty. We've only just received the report, there are 28 recommendations. I anticipate there'll be a lot of support for those recommendations, but we need to talk to our staff - our support, and protection, and a better work environment for our staff is at the centre of the change that we want to see. So we'll be talking to our staff about how to make sure that this report leads to the permanent change that will make this a better work environment for them. Thanks everyone.