Apr 8, 2021 - World

Australia to end sexual harassment exemptions for politicians

Photo of Scott Morrison's side profile

Photo: Sam Mooy via Getty Images

Politicians and judges in Australia will no longer be exempt from rules barring workplace sexual harassment, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Morrison has faced backlash for his government's management of sexual abuse scandals.

The state of play: Currently, lawmakers, judges and public servants are exempt from complaints about gender discrimination at work due to a legal loophole, though they can still be prosecuted for sexual assault.

  • Employers will now be lawfully required to take a proactive approach in stopping gender discrimination.
  • Complainants will also be able to submit their complaint within a longer time window.

What he's saying: The changes proposed Thursday are "about getting everyone on as much of a playing field as possible," Morrison told reporters.

  • "Sexual harassment is unacceptable," Morrison added.
  • "It’s not only immoral and despicable and even criminal, but … it denies Australians, especially women, not just their personal security but their economic security by not being safe at work."

The big picture: Australia has seen nationwide protests in recent months following rape allegations against public officials.

  • "Critics said the cases, and the government’s apparent initial reluctance to act, have highlighted a 'toxic' and sexist culture in Australia’s Parliament," Reuters writes.
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