More staffers could be sacked over lewd acts

 

More staffers could be sacked and MPs may be exposed after the whistleblower who blew the lid on lewd sex acts at Parliament House claimed he'd passed more information on to Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Labor Senator Kristina Keneally.

Senator Keneally announced on social media that someone from her office had spoken to the whistleblower and was given a "verbal briefing", The Australian reports.

The individual, who calls himself Tom the Whistleblower on social media, revealed earlier this week that some male staffers had allegedly committed lewd acts on female MPs' desks.

Channel 10 reported the claims on Monday night, which resulted in the sacking of a Liberal staffer who filmed himself performing an alleged sex act on the desk of a female.

The footage was reportedly shared with a group of Coalition staffers who filmed themselves committing indecent acts inside Parliament House.

The Australian reports it has seen material provided by the whistleblower that shows at least four Coalition staffers swapping images and videos on Facebook Messenger over a two-year period ending last year.

One video reportedly shows a Coalition staffer performing a sex act on another man that he claims is the Parliament House office of an MP he works for.

Tom The Whistleblower also said he had provided "names, dates, pics, vids" and evidence in relation to the alleged use of male sex workers at Parliament House.

They also hit out at Mr Morrison's claims that the lewd sexual acts had not occurred under his leadership

MORRISON CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON STAFFERS

Government staffers will undertake face-to-face workplace, health and safety training amid sexual assault allegations and claims of inappropriate behaviour.

In an address to all Coalition staffers on Tuesday afternoon, The Australian reports, Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined three key actions to clamp down on parliament's toxic culture.

He told staffers the government would establish a register for staff induction and professional conduct across all ministerial offices.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time. Picture: Getty Images
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time. Picture: Getty Images

It comes after Mr Morrison said he was "shocked and disgusted" at reports of some male staffers allegedly committing crude sex acts in the offices of female MPs.

The Prime Minister held back tears several times during a press conference on Tuesday morning where he declared "we must get this house in order".

Mr Morrison said the reports were "shameful" and added he had been "completely stunned" on multiple occasions over the past month - one where Parliament House has been rocked by multiple claims of it having a toxic culture.

He acknowledged it was the latest scandal in a "traumatic month" within parliament, beginning with former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins' allegation she was raped by a colleague in the building in 2019.

Previously, Mr Morrison was criticised for saying he had viewed Ms Higgins' allegation through the prism of his own daughters.

Mr Morrison acknowledged the reports were the latest scandal in a “traumatic month” within parliament. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Mr Morrison acknowledged the reports were the latest scandal in a “traumatic month” within parliament. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

He accepted he could have "chosen different words" but said the comments were made "in the best of faith" and no offence was intended.

His voice breaking and eyes watering, Mr Morrison asked for indulgence to speak about how his family has helped him understand the problems of women, saying, "Criticise me for speaking about my daughters but they are the centre of my life. My wife is the centre of my life. My widowed mother is the centre of my life.

"They have motivated me my entire life. I owe them everything. And to them I say to you girls I will not let you down."

The PM said that he had been "listening" to women and added that it was time to "get this house in order".

He said more had to be done to ensure women felt safe and heard.

"Women are afraid to walk to their car or the train, and they carry their keys in their hand like a knife for fear of being attacked," he said.

"That is not OK. That is not acceptable. In this country, our country as great as Australia, women walk daily that fear," he said.

"This is not just about the terrible things that happened to one woman in this place ... this was a shout about what was happening across Australia.

"There is something much bigger here that has been illuminated."

Mr Morrison said he needed women to "stand with me" and wanted to see more of them in Parliament.

"I want to see more women in this place, I have done anything to get more women in this place and I intend to do more," he said.

"I have put more women in my cabinet than any other Prime Minister has before, and I look forward to doing more. I need women to stand with me as we go about this, as we stand together".

The Prime Minister did not rule out bringing in quotas to increase the representation of women in the Coalition.

Pressed on the issue of the underrepresentation of women in parliament, Mr Morrison said, "I've had those frustrations for many years, going back to the time when I was a state director, where I actively sought to recruit to female candidates, whether to the state or federal parliament."

"I remember one personally during my time and she's gone on to do a pretty amazing job in leading the state of NSW right now at a time of great crisis."

MORRISON AIRS PRIVATE HR COMPLAINT WHICH IS 'UNTRUE'

During the press conference, Mr Morrison also publicly aired a private HR complaint in a stoush with a journalist at News Corp.

Mr Morrison said he had listened to stories from women who were "afraid" of losing their jobs for speaking out about harassment.

But when a journalist asked if the string of revelations about misconduct showed he had lost control of his ministerial staff, Mr Morrison fired back suggesting they hold up their own workplace "by comparison".

The journalist responded "well they're better than these, I would suggest," referring to the lewd acts on the desk and other allegations in Parliament House from the last month.

Mr Morrison then detailed an incident he had been told about that occurred to another journalist in the Parliament House.

"You are free to make your criticisms and to stand on that pedestal, but be careful," Mr Morrison warned the journalist.

In a statement issued Tuesday, News Corp Australasia Executive Charmain Michael Miller said the Prime Minister was wrong to claim an investigation was under way into a complaint accusing an employee of harassment against a woman in a female toilet.

He said no complaint has been received and News Corp and Sky News are not dealing with a complaint.

"News Corp and Sky News take seriously any issues raised by staff and our utmost priority is to respect their privacy and confidentiality," he said.

"This is standard business practice and because of this, we do not normally comment on private matters.

"However given the Prime Minister's extraordinary public claims made at a press conference broadcast live across the nation, I want to put to rest any suggestion that an employee of our company is being investigated for conduct suggested by Mr Morrison."

Mr Miller said that following the reporting of matters of sexually inappropriate behaviour at Parliament House, News Corp's HR team proactively gave staff the opportunity to talk in confidence about their well-being.

"During these proactive conversations, the News Corp's HR team learned of a verbal exchange between two News Corp employees in Parliament House in Canberra last year," he said.

"The exchange was about a workplace-related issue, it was not of a sexual nature, it did not take place in a toilet and neither person made a complaint.

"Following those inquiries, our HR team wrote to one of the people involved and the matter was resolved.

"The Prime Minister appears to have joined these two matters and conflated them into an episode of harassment in a toilet that is under current investigation.

"This is simply untrue and it undermines the principle that people must be able to raise issues safely and in confidence.

"News Corp has no further statements to make on this matter."

OUTCRY OVER 'DISGUSTING' PARLIAMENT SEX ACTS

It comes as MPs said staffers committing lewd acts within Parliament House should be outed to clean up the building's "toxic" culture.

A Liberal staffer was sacked on Monday after filming himself performing a lewd act on the desk of a female MP in shocking revelations aired by Channel 10.

The footage was reportedly shared with a group of Coalition staffers who filmed themselves committing indecent acts inside Parliament House.

The culture within parliament has been under scrutiny following months marred by sexual assault allegations and sex scandals.

Independent MP Zali Steggall said parliament needed to confront its "toxic … cultural issues", and while the conduct was "shocking", it was not surprising.

"Words nearly fail you to think of just how disgusting that is," she told the ABC.

Channel 10 aired shocking vision of staffers performing lewd acts in Parliament House. Picture: 10 News First
Channel 10 aired shocking vision of staffers performing lewd acts in Parliament House. Picture: 10 News First

"I'm quite astounded by the psychology of this and the desire to film oneself and share.

"It speaks to a pretty outrageous level of complacency, entitlement, that feeling that one would be so above the rules of decent conduct in a workplace, (and) this would somehow pass the test and be acceptable."

Channel 10 also aired claims sex workers were brought into parliament, while employees regularly had sex in the building's prayer room.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the behaviour must be "stamped out" but insisted the majority of staffers were hard working and professional.

"It's embarrassing, it's sickening, it's appalling, and it's not to be tolerated. That's the stance we are very clearly taking," he told Sky News.

But Ms Steggall said the incident spoke to the "broader question of the standards expected of staffers" and called for the government to implement a professional stand of conduct.

"Leadership comes from the top," she said.

"To say it's just a small minority is actually not engaging with the problem and taking responsibility for the problem.

"I think there needs to be a much better look at taking of responsibility by the government and the Coalition."

Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said there should be "zero" tolerance for the "reprehensible" behaviour and called on anyone with knowledge of other acts to come forward.

"No wonder people hate politics … I am sure Prime Minister Morrison would have done his block on this," he told Channel 9.

"It should be cleaned up and maybe if there is any good comes out of this, it is that people need to report the behaviour.

"We all need to just say: It is a privilege to work here, and that is the attitude which we should adopt all the time."

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the culture of Parliament House "reeks with toxicity" and she was "beyond (being) shocked anymore".

"What is wrong with these people? … This is more like local boy college style behaviour that goes unchecked," she asked Sky News.

"It's just absolutely revolting. To treat women in this building like this, your female boss, I just find it absolutely disgusting."

Nationals senator Matt Canavan said there "must be consequences" for anyone involved but said the men needed support.

"They have made shocking mistakes that they will pay a heavy price for, but I don't want to see them ostracised or banished from society," he told Sky News.

"They need to be supported, too, and hopefully learn from their mistakes and get on with their lives."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday decried the behaviour as "totally unacceptable" and "not good enough".

"The people who come to work in this building are better than this," he said in a statement.

"The actions of these individuals show a staggering disrespect for the people who work in parliament and for the ideals parliament is supposed to represent."



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