Victims of sexual violence will refuse to contribute to a review into parliament’s workplace culture unless their privacy is guaranteed, a bipartisan group of staffers has warned Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced an independent review into a toxic workplace culture in Parliament House, to be led by sex discrimination commission Kate Jenkins.
But concerns have been raised evidence may not be covered by parliamentary privilege, meaning it could be subject to freedom of information requests.
Brittany Higgins has led a group of 70 current and former political figures and staffers in signing an open letter demanding the review be confidential.
“We are concerned that even if names are redacted, details of submissions could still lead to the identification of victims – or the alleged perpetrators,” the letter read.
The group said the review should be “an altruistic act” but it could damage victims’ careers and retraumatise them if their submissions were publicly available.
It said women would be hesitant to report harassment and abuse unless privacy was guaranteed before submissions opened.
“As you have both said publicly, it is important that as many people as possible participate in the review,” the letter said.
“To do this, current and former staff must have confidence in the sex discrimination commissioner’s ability to ensure privacy for participants in the immediate future and in the long-term.”
It said the possibility of the review being released by the National Archives in 20 years would cause similar problems.
The review was prompted by Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer, alleging she was raped by a colleague in the parliamentary office of Linda Reynolds in 2019.
Her claim was followed a historic rape allegation levelled against Attorney-General Christian Porter, which he vehemently denied.
Female Labor staffers have also aired anonymous allegations outlining a toxic workplace culture within the party.
Ms Higgins told thousands of March 4 Justice protesters outside parliament on Monday there was a “confronting sense of banality” over sexual assault in the Australian community.
“My story was on the front page for the sole reason that it is a painful reminder to women that, if it can happen in Parliament House, it can truly happen anywhere,” she said.
She was joined in signing the letter by Fiona Sugden, a former staffer to various senior Labor figures.
Therese Rein, entrepreneur and wife of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and Lucy Turnbull, former Sydney mayor and wife of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, also signed the letter.