A devastating examination of Parliament House in late 2021 revealed frequent drinking, bullying, and sexual harassment.
After a Republican senator was accused of sexual assault less than two years later, the country is again grappling with political class behavior.
Independent member Zali Steggall alleged parliamentarians suffered “horrific” harassment and sexual assault.
“The culture of the Australian parliament has been exposed in the last few years, and still has a long way to go,” she told AFP.
Lidia Thorpe’s Senate address on Wednesday evening captivated the country.
Thorpe accused fellow senator David Van of sexually abusing her in 2021 and said “powerful men” had propositioned her.
By Thursday, conservative lawmaker Amanda Stoker accused Van of grabbing her at a Parliament House party.
Van, a former PR consultant, denies the charges as “scandalous,” “concocted,” and “utterly untrue.”
Harmful and destructive
Last week, Australia’s two major parties sparred over the 2021 rape accusation by former parliamentary worker Brittany Higgins.
After Higgins’ private text conversations were released, the accusations have reappeared.
Steggall, a 1998 Winter Olympics bronze medalist in slalom skiing, called politicizing rape charges “harmful and destructive.”
“It was a very disappointing, distressing week in parliament,” she added. “It did set us back in terms of the kind of workplace it is.”
Political scientist Marian Sawer compared sexual harassment in Australia’s parliament to that in Westminster-style democracies like the UK and New Zealand.
Sawer told AFP that hostile politics in certain nations may have normalized “aggressive conduct”.
One-third of Parliament House staff reported sexual harassment in November 2021.
The Australian Human Rights Commission identified a laddish culture in the facility, fueled by extensive drinking.
“I do often describe Parliament House as the most sexist place I’ve worked,” one responder told the writers.
Blair Williams, gender politics expert, said addressing sexism would be difficult.
“It’s hard to fix a huge, longstanding problem, with one or two fixes,” she told AFP.
“We are still hearing these accounts of sexual harassment and assault happening in the halls of power,” she continued.
Williams said Australia’s government was 30 years behind after a similar “reckoning” reshaped the commercial sector.
Julia Gillard, Australia’s only female prime leader from 2010 to 2013, faced constant sexism.
Australia is behind other nations in increasing women in parliament.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union ranked Australia 15th in women in parliament in 1999.
It was 57th by 2022.
Williams said starting here was simple.
“More women in parliament might improve culture.”