28 November 2023

Rattenbury says Davis inquiry about punishing the Greens, not systemic change

| Claire Fenwicke
Join the conversation
ACT Legislative Assembly

The Greens wanted an independent inquiry to ensure ‘best practice’ had been set up across the Legislative Assembly when it came to issues around bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. Photo: Region.

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.

READ ALSO ACT Greens maintain representative in Brindabella with Laura Nuttall winning countback

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.

READ ALSO ‘It was a shitshow’: Liberals prefer empty chair to oust party president in rowdy AGM cleanout of old guard

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.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
HiddenDragon8:12 pm 29 Nov 23

This looks like a rather cynical exercise which, in truth, is meant to be more about the first three politically motivated points in the announced terms of reference, with the final point tacked on to make the whole thing look respectable and worthy of the expenditure of public funds.

The matters encompassed in the first three points should be examined as a possible illustration of things going wrong under current arrangements, not as an inquisitorial exercise – the bulk of the inquiry’s work should be forward-looking and draw on best practice in other workplaces.

I absolutely loath the ACT Greens but this is a grubby stitch up by Labor & the Libs.
Greens did exactly the right thing IMHO.

Ordinarily not a big fan of the Greens either, but I reckon they handled the situation quite promptly and well. The inquiry seems very narrow.

Liberal and Labor are right to focus on the Greens for this inquiry, as the Greens have a reoccurring problem with sex scandals, and each time there appears to be problems with their response. The public have a right to know what’s going wrong inside that coven, and Greens should explain their failings before the next election.


The greens have actually handled this exceptionally well. The inquiry should be seen for what it is, pure politics. Sad.

GrumpyGrandpa6:37 pm 28 Nov 23

Ordinarily, I’d think that any complaint or allegations needs some degree of internal investigation, prior to escalation, which is what the Greens did.

However, in this case, the Greens are in an alliance government with the ALP and as such, have an obligation to keep The Chief in the loop.

That’s not to say, any allegation about a member of the Libs should be treated less seriously, but simply that with government comes an extra layer of accountability and need for transparency.

Well Grumpy I do have confidence that our Labor government will handle this unfortunate situation with care. I stand by the legal principle that every person accused of any crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. I also note that there are no alleged victims that have come forward to make a complaint.

That said, I hope that the final report does not fall short of expectations in setting up a “best practice system” to protect and inform our parliament should this unfortunate situation occur in the future.

GrumpyGrandpa12:17 pm 29 Nov 23

Jack D.
I must admit that I’m not really sure about this whole thing.

Sure, there is something, maybe a bit uncomfortable, with a 30 y.o. seeking contact with 18 year olds, but if Mr Davis hasn’t broken any laws, is it anyone’s business?

I’m not entirely sure why he resigned, rather than publicly addressing the complaint and moving on. Of course we aren’t privy to the nature of the complaint.

Get used to it Shane! ACT voters are entering an election year and the Greens are in the spotlight and being targeted by both major parties. What better opportunity than a sex scandal in the squeaky clean Greens party to settle a few scores! With an opportunity like this you surely didn’t expect the parties to consult with you on the terms of reference? Not least the Liberals whose noses are still out of joint and are just relishing the opportunity to claw back those voters who deserted them for your party at the last election!

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.