Aide fired after Parliament House ‘sex videos’ shock Australia

Protesters outside Australia's Parliament House
Australian politics is back in the headlines, a week after protesters gathered outside Parliament House

The crisis engulfing Australia’s “toxic” politics has continued to grow following the emergence of videos showing staff members performing sex acts in parliament, leading to one senior aide being fired.

One video showed the aide performing a sex act on a female MP’s desk.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the videos as “disgraceful”.

It comes after a former staff member revealed how she feared losing her job following an alleged sexual assault.

Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped by senior colleague in an office in March 2019, but says she felt pressured not to report the incident to police.

It sparked a wave of allegations, and last week, thousands took part in marches to protest against the sexual abuse and harassment of women in Australia.

The videos were leaked to Australian media by a former government staff member, who said he had become “immune” to the pictures because of the sheer volume he received.

As well as the videos – filmed two years ago – he said people had used the prayer room to have sex and even brought sex workers into parliament.

The whistleblower described a “culture of men thinking that they can do whatever they want”, describing some of his colleagues as “morally… bankrupt”.

Mr Morrison told reporters on Tuesday he was “shocked”, adding: “We must get this house in order. We must put the politics aside on these things, and we must recognise this problem, acknowledge it, and we must fix it.”

He has previously been criticised for his response, including for declining to meet protesters last week. Protest leaders were later invited to meet him in parliament, which they rejected saying they would not meet “behind closed doors”.

Questions over the government’s handling of the crisis were once again raised after backbench government MP Michelle Landry said she “felt sorry” for the fired aide.

But cabinet minister Karen Andrews told reporters her “conscience will no longer allow me to remain quiet” over sexism in Australian politics, saying gender quotas for political representatives should be considered – something Mr Morrison indicated he would not be entirely opposed to.

“We tried it the other way and it isn’t getting us the results so I would like to see us do better on that front,” he told reporters.

Labor, the opposition party, already have quotas in place.

There has long been allegations of bullying and harassment in Australian politics. However, Ms Higgins’ allegations have shone a spotlight on sexual assault and sexism.

Brittany Higgins speaking at the Canberra March 4 Justice protest on Monday
Ms Higgins’ story has inspired other women to speak out

In the days after she went public with her story, more allegations emerged, with Attorney General Christian Porter revealing he was the subject of a 1988 rape allegation.

He denies the allegation, and police closed the investigation because of a lack of evidence.

Ms Higgins’ former boss, defence minister Linda Reynolds, was also forced to apologise and pay compensation to her former aide, after calling her a “lying cow”.

Critics say the government has also been too slow and ineffective in responding to wider accusations of sexism and misogyny in parliamentary culture, a problem they say extends across party lines.

The Labor opposition has said it would review its culture after dozens of anonymous allegations of sexual harassment and sexism against male figures within its party.

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