News

Brittany Higgins commends Parliament’s plan to implement complaints process

Brittany Higgins says new independent complaints process will “ensure Parliament House is a safer workplace for all future employees”.

Former Liberal Party junior staffer Brittany Higgins commended the decision to institute an independent complaints process for serious incidents within Parliament House.

The complaints mechanism was one recommendation of the Foster Report led by Stephanie Foster, commissioned after Higgins publicly alleged she was raped in Parliament House.

Pictured: Stephanie Foster, Image: Dominic Lorrimer

Key takeaways from the Report highlighted the need for:

  • processes to sufficiently handle and respond to complex trauma;
  • processes to be a mechanism independent from the employer;
  • processes and procedure to be aligned with current understandings of best practice;
  • greater accountability in the resolution of incidents; and
  • greater access to resolving incidents and appropriate consequences for offenders.

The report made 10 recommendations, including the suggestion that Parliament House be closely monitored after-hours, and “targeted, personalised, face to face training for all parliamentarians and staff“.

In a statement released on Monday, Scott Morrison said that the government would adopt all ten recommendations of the report.

He added that the final version of the report incorporated advice from: “consultations with the opposition, minor parties, independents and staff, including proposing options for Parliament to mandate training for parliamentarians.”

Currently, the independent mechanism implemented by the Morrison government will only handle complaints related to the current term of Parliament.

As a result, incidents, including the Higgins complaint, therefore, are not eligible to be investigated by the complaints process.

Labor has criticised this restriction, and argued for retrospective investigations.

The possibility of investigating historical complaints will be addressed in a review conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.

The Jenkins review will be released to the public by November 2021.

The independent complaints mechanism from the Foster Report is set to be established within the coming six weeks.