Australian Lawmakers Apologize for Sexual Harassment in Parliament

Australian Lawmakers Apologize for Sexual Harassment in Parliament

On Tuesday, Mr. Morrison singled out Ms. Higgins in his remarks.

“I’m sorry to Ms. Higgins for the terrible things that took place here,” he said. “And the place that should have been a place of safety and contribution turned out to be a nightmare.”

Mr. Morrison had also apologized to Ms. Higgins last February, a day after she had made her allegation public. He was criticized for saying that he had come to understand the gravity of the situation only after speaking with his wife, who had told him to imagine that his own daughters had been assaulted.

Ms. Jenkins, the sex discrimination commissioner, called the parliamentary acknowledgment on Tuesday “an important first step,” adding on Twitter that she was heartened by the “clear and unequivocal apologies from across parliament.”

“I am confident we are at the start of real and lasting change,” she said.

Still, advocates for victims of sexual assault and harassment said the apology did not go far enough to deliver accountability, and they called for all of the review’s recommendations to be carried out. In her review, Ms. Jenkins proposed a series of measures to address the power imbalances, gender inequality and lack of accountability in Parliament.

“How about some proactive, preventative measures and not just these performative, last-minute bandaid electioneering stunts?” Grace Tame, a prominent advocate for survivors of sexual assault, said on Twitter.

Leaders in Parliament also faced criticism on Tuesday after Ms. Higgins, who was set to give a speech in Canberra, the capital, told an Australian news site that she had not initially been invited to attend Parliament to hear the apology in person. That omission, apparently related to Covid restrictions, was later rectified, according to the site,

The parliamentary apology would have had a greater impact had it properly acknowledged the people who had been affected and allowed them to be present, said Susan Harris Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University and a former parliamentary staff member.

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