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The Jenkins Report: Sarah Ison breaks down report on episode of Politics Made Okay

Australia’s Federal Parliament has been exposed as a predatory “boys’ club” in a landmark report that reveals four out of 10 women have been sexually harassed.

Many of the figures in the investigation by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins are staggering — with 63 per cent of female politicians being sexually harassed.

In this week’s special episode of Politics Made Okay, Sarah Ison, The West’s Federal Political Reporter, details the key findings of the report, and reveals her own experiences working in Australia’s Parliament House.

“Let me be clear, this happens… it happened back then and it’s happening now… it’s happened to me,” Ison says.

“I’m talking about things like the hand on the lower back when the male parliamentarian asks if I want another drink, or the unnecessary messages trying to make conversation late at night.

“And how me and my peers talk about who to avoid… who never to be alone with.

“And of course all the comments about my appearance, whether it’s the shape of my body or the cut of my hair, and what that says about my sexuality.”


The report, which was commissioned by the Federal Government in the wake of the alleged rape of Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in a minister’s office, heard from 1723 individuals via written submissions, interviews and survey responses.

It found that “power, including power imbalances and the misuse of power, was one of the primary drivers of misconduct” in Commonwealth workplaces. The Commission heard that women were under-represented in decision-making roles and a lack of diversity contributes to a “boys club” and bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The report said a workplace culture of drinking was a major driver of bad behaviour. Participants from parliamentary departments also highlighted unreasonable demands by parliamentarians.

Ms Jenkins made 28 recommendations including introducing new codes of conducts on sexual misconduct, bullying and discrimination for MPs and employees, setting up new independent watchdogs to police them and reforming workplace conditions — including the oversight of far-reaching powers of MPs to dismiss employees for reasons such as “loss of trust”.

It also called for targets to achieve gender balance among MPs and staff within 10 years including more First Nations people and those from non-English speaking backgrounds, those with disabilities and LGBTIQ+ representatives.

If you are experiencing abuse or need to talk to someone: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) Lifeline 13 11 14.

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