Fixing parliament’s culture: Can a code of conduct end subtle racism and micro-aggressions? | SBS News

This article contains references to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Following scandals and scathing reports about the culture in Australia’s parliamentary workplaces, a federal committee is developing a code of conduct for MPs, senators and staff.
The Joint Special Committee on Parliamentary Standards has been tasked with developing a code of conduct for elected officials, parliamentary staff and parliamentary workplaces “to ensure safe and respectful conduct”.

Led by Labor MP Sharon Claydon as chair and Liberal Senator Marise Payne as vice-chair, the committee is due to present its final report by November 1.

In a submission to the inquiry, Minister for Youth and Early Childhood Education Anne Aly called for Australia’s Parliamentary Code of Conduct to cover racism, racial harassment and sexualised racial harassment and include it in all proposed training programs for staff, MPs and Senators.
dr Aly wrote that she had “witnessed and witnessed incidents of subtle racism and micro-aggression towards people of color in Commonwealth Parliamentary workplaces”.
“No code of conduct aimed at changing work culture would be complete without acknowledging that these behaviors exist in our workplace, that they are detrimental to work culture, and that they have a serious impact on those exposed to these behaviors,” wrote you.
While Australia has state and federal laws that make racial harassment unlawful, Dr. Aly told SBS News that those standards “should be reflected in ours as well [parliamentary] Code of Conduct”.

“I think it is necessary that we have the same types of safeguards that we have for sexual harassment and other forms of harassment, that we have for people of color, people of cultural and linguistic background, in the same way, like we have in our workplaces across the country, and in the same way that they are embedded in our state and federal laws,” she said.

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What is racial sexual harassment?

In her comment on the study, Dr. Aly on Set the Standard: Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces by the Australian Human Rights Commission, conducted by Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, which “emphasized the importance of taking an intersectional approach to understanding workplace sexual bullying, harassment and sexual assault, and how these behaviours can be prevented and responded to”.
“The review covers people who identify as First Nations persons and those who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), among others who often feel excluded and insecure in their workplaces,” she wrote.

“As someone who identifies as a person of color and CALD, I am concerned that racial harassment and racism are not included in the [inquiry’s terms of reference] with the risk that they will be excluded from the proposed codes of conduct.”

dr Aly warned against overlooking racial sexual harassment – “defined as harassing behavior that combines race and gender simultaneously” – in the new code of conduct.
“Examples of racial sexual harassment include appearance comments that emphasize gender and ethnicity, as well as instances where women of color are fired or made less likely to be believed for reporting harassment or assault,” she wrote.

“Research in the United States has shown that black women experience more serious and physical forms of sexual harassment, such as B. unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault than white women.”

What is intersectionality?

The Harmony Alliance, which represents migrant and refugee women, called for the new code of conduct to “embed the principles of intersectionality and gender equality”.
“Intersectionality theory recognizes that an intersection of multiple forms of systemic discrimination and barriers leads to greater disadvantages for groups of people who are not dominant and do not have equal access to power and privilege as the dominant groups,” the group wrote in its submission the request.
“People with a migration and refugee background, and especially women with a migration and refugee background, are affected by a wide range of systemic disadvantages and inequality.
“In the context of parliamentary jobs, developing the code through an intersectional lens may be a solution to facilitate equal opportunity in access, experience and outcomes for women in all their diversity.”
The 47th Parliament is the most diverse in Australia’s history and “parliamentary policies and procedures should be responsive to the diversity of Australia’s population,” wrote Harmony Alliance.

dr Aly drew on her own experience to explain the concept of intersectionality.
“As I describe it, I enter a room not only as a woman or a parliamentarian, but also as a woman of color. I also come in as a woman from a minority religious background, I also come in as a whole host of other parts of my identity,” she told SBS News.

“And so, particularly where it’s racial sexual harassment or racial harassment, it’s really important to call it racial harassment or racial harassment.” So often it gets put in the basket of bullying or harassment in general, but it’s really important that the people who are at the bottom of this type of harassment and behavior have acknowledged that it’s race-based or that it’s racist is sexual harassment.”

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Will a code of conduct solve Parliament’s cultural problems?

A body enforcing a code of conduct in the Bundestag would not be able to solve all of its cultural problems but would help drive change, the inquiry was told this week.
Rob Stefanic, secretary for the Department of Parliamentary Services, told the inquiry further clarifications were needed on how the new code enforcement body would work alongside other agencies in Parliament.
“I don’t think creating new entities is necessarily the panacea, it’s more the politics and the training and reforms that sit underneath that I think is more important,” he said.
“It’s going to be important to get some clarity on exactly what this service is doing… the code of conduct is the important foundation, but all the cultural work that comes out of it will be the critical element.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to implementing the code of conduct following the recommendations of Ms Jenkins’ landmark review of workplace culture at Parliament House.

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The Commissioner on Gender Discrimination told the hearing that the Code for Parliamentary Officials should be consistent with other codes for federal officials.
“Establishing these codes of conduct with enforceable sanctions is an important step in ensuring a safe and respectful environment free from bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault,” she said.
“A piece of paper alone isn’t necessarily going to change things, but it should support that and support the other recommendations we’ve made on diversity, equality and inclusion.”
The inquiry is also examining whether the new standards body could impose sanctions on MPs and Senators without disrupting the work of Parliament.
Ms Jenkins said that while the Commission was unlikely to be able to impose sanctions or force an MP to be expelled from Parliament, there are other ways to enforce action if an MP is found to have breached the code.
“The consequences that we came up with would not affect the operation of Parliament … (if it) attended training or perhaps apologized,” she said.
With additional coverage by AAP.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT at 1800.737.732 or visit us . In an emergency, call 000.

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