A recent political sex scandal has led to greater powers for South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commission.
The Commission will now be permitted to investigate sexual harassment complaints against politicians for the first time.
Political sex scandal exposed after Christmas party
Former Liberal MP Sam Duluk allegedly slapped a female MP on the bottom during a Christmas party at Parliament House.
Consequently, police charged him with assault and he subsequently quit the Liberal Party.
Following the incident, Premier Steven Marshall came under pressure to allow Equal Opportunity Commissioner Niki Vincent to investigate.
However, Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the relevant Act does not cover MPs.
Loophole addressed with new legislation
Chapman said new legislation tabled in Parliament will address the loophole.
“The law as it currently stands makes no reference to MPs who sexually harass fellow MPs – a deliberate decision, as I understand it, from when sexual harassment provisions in relation to MPs against staff were introduced in 1997.
“In over two decades since, attitudes have clearly shifted, and it’s no longer acceptable to have a situation where this type of harassment is not covered by our laws.”
She said the Bill extends provisions to make sexual harassment by an MP of another MP unlawful.
Ms Vincent is currently undertaking an investigation into the workplace culture at Parliament House.
Meanwhile, Duluk has continued working as an independent, and will appear in Adelaide Magistrates Court in October on the assault charges.
No excuse for sexual harassment
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Human Rights Claims says there is no excuse for sexual harassment.
“No one should be immune from consequences of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace,” he said.
“Everyone has a right to a safe workplace and unwelcome sexual conduct will almost always end with serious consequences for the perpetrator.”
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