The ACT Greens leader has lamented the terms of reference for an inquiry into his party’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct are about dragging them “back over the coals” rather than creating systemic change.
The terms of reference (TOR) of the inquiry were announced at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (28 November), calling for an independent person or firm to review:
- the timeline when materials related to the allegations of sexual misconduct by former MLA Johnathan Davis were received by ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson and senior staff
- the appropriateness of steps taken by Mr Rattenbury and Ms Davidson regarding applicable laws, good governance, compliance with policies and community expectations
- the timeliness and completeness of reporting the allegations
- best practice and possible changes to laws, policies and procedures to ensure allegations of sexual misconduct against MLAs are appropriately reported and investigated in a way that is trauma-informed.
But Mr Rattenbury had wanted the inquiry to go further.
Mr Rattenbury wrote to Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry and Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee on 22 November urging them to consider a review along similar veins of the Jenkins Review at Australian Parliament House or the Broderick Report from the NSW Parliament.
He wanted the TOR to also:
- examine approaches taken by ACT political parties in the Legislative Assembly in relation to responding to allegations of sexual misconduct, bullying and harassment
- examine guidance provided to MLAs and staff regarding the reporting and response to such allegations, including examining the current response and reporting mechanisms
- consider best practice to enable safe and respectful parliamentary workplaces
- look at the adequacy, effectiveness, independence, resourcing and awareness of current supports available to enable a safe and respectful workplace
- assess the extent to which current legislation, policies, processes and practices either promote or impede safe and respectful workplaces.
These suggestions were not supported by either party.
“The way the terms of reference have been framed, clearly the Labor Party and the Liberal Party want to rehash and closely examine, very specifically, the Greens’ actions,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“We’ve been clear in our letters to the other parties that we need to take this moment to ensure the ACT Assembly has best practice.
“In having narrower terms of reference, it does feel like simply an attempt by the Labor and Liberal parties to drag us back over the coals rather than address the systemic issues.”
Mr Rattenbury described this as a “missed opportunity” to learn from the mistakes of other governments and to ensure the ACT Legislative Assembly had a “best practice” system in place to protect and inform staff should such incidents arise in the future.
“We’re not arrogant enough to assume that there’s not something that we [as a party] might reflect on and do better next time,” he said
“We are disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken to more comprehensively consider how this would be set up in the future and make sure that if, in the very unfortunate circumstance, there is this sort of allegation in the building in the future, that there is a really strong system and members have more clarity about what their responsibilities are.
“Parliament House is just a few kilometres up the road, [and] to think that the sort of issues that have arisen there might not rise [here] is showing a bit of wilful blindness.”
Mr Rattenbury said while some of the issues raised in his suggested terms of reference could be addressed during the examination of the ACT Greens’ response, other questions may not be answered.
Both the ACT Labor and Canberra Liberals parties have been critical of the Greens’ handling of sexual misconduct claims made about former Brindabella MLA Johnathan Davis.
A spokesperson for Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the terms of reference would get the job done.
“The purpose of the Independent Review is to deal promptly with allegations into the handling of a specific matter,” they said.
“Any relevant findings will be applied across the Assembly.”
Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee accused Mr Rattenbury of trying to “deflect” from his and his party’s handling of the incident.
“There is no evidence to suggest there is a parliamentary-wide culture or systemic issue of the serious nature that Mr Rattenbury refers to,” she said.
“The Independent inquiry that passed through the Legislative Assembly today strikes the right balance in ensuring there is a thorough and respectful review into the ACT Greens’ handling of the misconduct allegations raised against Mr Davis.”
ACT Policing confirmed that, as of 28 November, no alleged victims had come forward to make a complaint to police regarding Mr Davis.