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Fearless Conversations: Future of politics in the spotlight

Parliamentary workplace standards come into the spotlight as part of the third forum in Flinders University’s Fearless Conversations series for 2022, focusing on the future of politics.

Australia’s political workplaces are plagued by serious cultural issues that need urgent attention.

That’s the view of Flinders University’s Dr Rob Manwaring, who said recent reports into Commonwealth and SA parliamentary workplaces indicated they were lagging “20 to 30 years behind the times”.

“Looking at the report in South Australia, something like 27 per cent of the respondents had reported they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or bullying … and 77 per cent said they didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t want to report it,” he said.

“So there’s probably a chronic under-reporting of bullying and harassment in these workplaces … these are not workplaces that would pass the test in any other organisation. They lag behind significantly.”

Dr Manwaring, an associate professor in the College of Business, Government and Law, was speaking during this week’s The Advertiser and Flinders University Fearless Conversation forum. It is the third of the 2022 series, which brings together leading voices in roundtable discussions about the big issues facing the state.

With the political focus shifting from March’s SA state election – which saw Labor sweep into power – to the May 21 federal poll, the forum’s focus on the “Future of Politics” was timely. Hosted by Channel 7 chief reporter Mike Smithson, the hour-long conversation also involved Deputy Premier Susan Close, newly elected state member for Adelaide Lucy Hood and federal Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie.

Ms Sharkie said last year’s Set the Standard report had highlighted the need for more family-friendly hours – and a code of conduct – for federal MPs: “The report said that over 60 per cent of female politicians have been harassed … there are certainly cultural issues that need to be addressed.”

In response to a question from Smithson about whether the days of “very bad behaviour in the corridors of North Tce” were gone, Dr Close said she “hoped so”.

“It’s the kind of workplace where bad things can happen and you tend to find that in any very hierarchical organisation where one class of people … have vastly more power than the people who work for them,” she said.

Other issues canvassed in the wide-ranging discussion included the likelihood of a female state premier, the increasingly large role played by independents, the return of Nick Xenophon, next month’s federal election and Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s week one campaign gaffes.

Watch the conversation from 11am on Wednesday at adelaidenow.com.au/fearless-conversations. Register for fearless conversations at flinders.edu/fearless/conversations

Originally published as Fearless Conversations: Houses of power ripe for a cultural change

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