‘Very constructive’: Brittany Higgins meets Albanese, PM is next

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Former Liberal staff member Brittany Higgins said she had had a constructive meeting with Labor leader Anthony Albanese over reforming the toxic workplace culture facing political advisers.

Mr Higgins met Mr Albanese in Sydney on Friday morning and was due to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison later today.

“It was a very constructive meeting and I was very grateful for their time,” she said afterwards.

Mr Albanese said Ms Higgins’ ideas for reform were “modest and reasonable”.

He said that just as there was an independent body to deal with parliamentary spending and a budget office to independently provide the costs of policies, there was also a need to create an independent body allowing staff members, MPs and for chiefs of staff to seek advice and raise workplace issues.

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“She has shown extraordinary courage in coming forward – to be a voice for women, for issues that need real solutions,” he said.

“We have to listen to women and listen to their concerns, listen to the experience they have had.”

A decision by Ms Higgins to go public with her alleged rape in a parliamentary ministerial office has sparked nationwide rallies over the abuse of women.

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Political leaders pledged to cooperate with reforms.

Ms Higgins says the system has failed and that she wants “a new framework for political staff that ensures real cultural change and restores staff confidence.”

Ministerial and parliamentary staff owed a “major review” of her working conditions and how they could be improved, she said in a statement earlier this year.

She is concerned that political advisers have few protections, resources and confidential reporting mechanisms to address workplace issues because they are not public servants and work in an extremely pressured environment.

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Key to any change is reform of the Members of Parliament Act (MOPS), which Ms Higgins says does not provide adequate protections and working conditions for employees.

Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins examines parliamentary workplaces, including how MOPS works.

After gathering evidence and submissions, it is expected to present an interim report in July and final recommendations in November.

Political parties are also reviewing their complaint reporting systems.

-AAP

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