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First the apology, now to hear from two brave women who earned it


Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and child sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame will today respond to Scott Morrison’s apology to women harassed and assaulted in federal parliament.

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Higgins, who went public a year ago about her alleged 2019 rape in a minister’s office, will address the National Press Club with former Australian of the Year Tame on Wednesday.

Federal MPs have stressed practical steps would be taken to change the culture towards women in Parliament House, despite an apology being labelled as a stunt.

Tame said on Twitter the statement by the Prime Minister on the floor of parliament lacked action going forward on the issue.

“How about some proactive, preventative measures and not just these performative, last-minute bandaid electioneering stunts,” Tame said.

The statement of acknowledgement was the first of 28 recommendations called for by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

The Jenkins Review was triggered after Higgins went public with allegations she had been raped in a minister’s office in Parliament House in 2019.

While the apology had been criticised, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said practical steps were being taken to change the workplace culture of Parliament House.

“There continues to be action delivering on those recommendations received late last year,” he told the Seven Network on Wednesday.

“What you saw yesterday was a very sincere apology and that call for further action from the PM.”

Birmingham dismissed the attacks from Tame, saying it wasn’t “entirely fair”.

Legislation to enact some of the reforms called for by the review will be introduced to parliament on Wednesday.

Women’s Minister Marise Payne said the apology was a critical step forward.

“I think there’s wide community expectation, as they should be, that the recommendations of the Jenkins report will be implemented – most certainly the government is committed to implementing all 28 recommendations,” she told ABC Radio.

“For (the apology) to be called a stunt is, of course, a matter for Ms Tame, but that is not my view.”

Payne said she hoped to attend Wednesday’s National Press Club address, provided meetings as part of her role as foreign minister end on time.

“It is an important address that comes a time when we are in the process of implementing the recommendations of the Jenkins review, and taking forward some of the very, very difficult issues from 2021.”

The Jenkins review found one-third of staff surveyed across Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces had been sexually harassed.

In his speech on Tuesday, the prime minister apologised for a parliamentary culture that had normalised bullying, abuse and sexual harassment.

“The place that should have been a place of safety and contribution turned out to be a nightmare … but (Ms Higgins) had the courage to stand, and so here we are,” he said.

“It is clear that practical and cultural changes are necessary to make our parliamentary workplaces safer.”

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