Australia to end exemptions for politicians and judges facing sexual harassment claims

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that his government will end exemptions for judges and politicians from sexual harassment laws.

The announcement comes in response to nationwide protests against sexual violence, prompted by allegations of rapes committed by high level politicians, including an allegation against attorney general Christian Porter. Early last year Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, issued the Respect@Work report offering 55 recommendations that would implement broad changes to existing laws, including the removal of exemptions for public sector employers. Included in the report were dozens of accounts from sexual harassment survivors, detailing extensive workplace misconduct across many industries and levels of employment.

In his announcement Morrison said the government had agreed to all 55 recommendations, either in full, in principle, or in part. Among the recommendations are a complete ban on gender discrimination in the workplace, mandatory sexual harassment training for directors of companies, and eliminating an exemption for sexual harassment against volunteers and other unpaid workers. “This is a culture that we all have to change for the better,” Morrison said.

Commissioner Jenkins issued a statement saying the government’s broad acceptance of the report’s recommendations “provides hope to those who have experienced unsafe workplaces under the current system and for workers of the future.”