You are here

Motion for Respect: Report into Workplace Culture in the Tasmanian Ministerial and Parliamentary Services

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Tags: Parliament, Workers Rights

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make my apology as the member of Franklin to all the members of parliament, the staff in electorate offices and parliamentary offices, as well as to all Parliament House staff who have, over the decades and in recent times, contributed their experiences of being bullied, harassed and discriminated against in this workplace.

The report of Sarah Bolt, and the other people who worked with her compiling the surveys and having conversations with people, has detailed a culture of a systemic abuse of power in this workplace in some places.

It has changed over time. Ms O'Connor talked about the difference experienced just by having eyes on us in the Chamber, the experience of members of parliament, where abuse and harassment has decreased as a result of having cameras.

Eyes on behaviour is an important change but the most important change is the culture which we are all responsible for setting. The report describes the impact on people who have experienced these forms of abuse. The impact, I felt from reading the report, was that it is a very bodily feeling. That is what stands out most to me in the comments included by Ms Bolt in relation to, for example, the impact of discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying. She asked, 'What did we learn?'. We learnt that as a result of these actions people responded by crying in a nearby park, being curled up under their desk in a foetal position, staring at their shoes while being spoken to in fear of being yelled at, and shaking and feeling that they would vomit.

The impact for people who had those experiences included the response of the body, which was anxiety and depression, panic attacks, stress and trauma, damage to their self confidence, sadness, frustration, disbelief and, sadly but not surprisingly, wanting to leave. For most of those people who have had some severe experiences, these impacts are still felt in their bodies. We carry experiences like discrimination, bullying and harassment in ourselves and we store it away as shame and guilt. It thwarts people's ability to be able to contribute to the important work we do here, representing the people of Tasmania, to their fullest ability.

This report tells me and the other members who have made a contribution today that we want to change the culture so that people can contribute fully and be included, they can flourish, nurture and do the work they are employed to do free of ridicule, threat and the other forms of abuse people have experienced: the insults, the humiliation, the ridicule and also, appallingly, the unwelcome requests for sex, the constant obscene comments that some people reported, and unwelcome physical contact. These are all behaviours that some people experienced on a persistent basis.

Not only were the people who experienced this behaviour themselves harmed it was also damaging for bystanders. It seems, from the report, that bystanders were of two types. They included members of parliament turning a blind eye, supporting the status quo, senior men in the parliament clearly unwilling to rock the boat or upset the boys. It also included other women, when women were bullied or discriminated against or harassed, who chose not to speak out. The price for speaking out was very severe and the reasons people did not intervene was because of the negative consequences for doing that. The impacts of speaking up meant 20 per cent of people had their career pathways damaged or inhibited; 17 per cent had physical and mental health impacted; 17 per cent had relationships at work badly affected; 14 per cent had self esteem and confidence badly affected; 14 per cent left to work elsewhere; and 6 per cent took time off work. There was an overwhelming view from bystanders that they did not speak up because they did not think anything would be done and it would damage their career prospects.

We have a responsibility to make sure we can do everything so that every person in this place - every employee - is able to come to work and feel some joy at the prospect of doing what they can to contribute to the democracy of Tasmania. To make their part, small and great, on behalf of people who have voted for them to speak and be their representative here, all the people who work for them, all the parliamentary staff, all the staff in the ministerial offices who, in such a hardworking way, do everything they can to make the work that we do be fantastic and to make Tasmania a better place.

Most people in this building are here to make Tasmania a better place. That is why it has been so great that Sarah Bolt has done this work. Now it is up to us. The Premier has made a strong commitment. The Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Greens, and I make my small part in that commitment to providing ongoing support for people and to giving people every opportunity to nurture and flourish in the workplace. The 620 people who made substantive contributions all expect to see something different. It is up to us to make sure that we honour them.